Earlier this year, a 20-year-old Sumatran orangutan named Kutai, held captive at the Oregon Zoo, died after suffering a month-long illness resulting from an infection. At the time, authorities at the facility did not offer many details, stating only that staff had tried their best to save the ailing animal, but that they hadn't been able to turn things around.
Kutai's untimely passing might have been forgotten and considered unavoidable, but the announcement that two senior officials at the zoo have been fired suggests that there's much more to the story.
On Monday, the regional government of the Portland Metropolitan area, which oversees the facility, dismissed zoo director Kimberly Smith and chief veterinarian Mitch Finnegan without explanation. But after several days of speculation, city leaders have released a statement implicating the two zoo officials in negligence regarding the orangutan's death, which they said involved a cover-up.
"Every day our goal is to uphold high standards for accountability and integrity when it comes to animal care. Information came to our attention that raised questions about whether these standards were met in relation to the death of the zoo's Sumatran orangutan Kutai," said city officials in a written statement.