Follow us:

The Today File

Your guide to the latest news from around the Northwest

May 8, 2014 at 9:40 PM

Oregon zoo director, veterinarian fired over orangutan’s death

PORTLAND (AP) — The firings of the Oregon Zoo’s director and top veterinarian are related to the January death of a 20-year-old orangutan, regional government leaders said Thursday.

A statement from Metro, the regional government that runs the zoo, said Metro leaders “concluded mistakes were made and important information was not fully disclosed,” The Oregonian reported.

Zoo director Kimberly Smith and veterinarian Mitch Finnegan were fired Monday. Finnegan said his dismissal came without much explanation beyond a lack of confidence in his ability to lead his department.

He said Thursday in an Oregonian interview that the death of Kutai the orangutan was a bigger loss for him than his job.

“We were all gutted,” he said. “We were like walking zombies after that. It was not for lack of caring or trying that this guy ended up dying.”

The orangutan showed a decrease in appetite and activity in December. Zookeepers suspected an infection. He died after two surgeries.

Smith was hired to run the zoo in 2010, after Metro auditors recommended stronger oversight over zoo construction projects. Finnegan worked at the Oregon Zoo for more than 20 years.

Metro officials said they could not talk directly about the firings because they were personnel matters.

In their statement, they said Smith and Finnegan were dismissed after an investigation into Kutai’s death found that standard operating procedures and best practices were not followed, procedural lapses were tolerated, and there was a lack of trust regarding the accuracy of reports “and whether important facts regarding animal care were omitted.”

No additional explanation was offered.

Kutai was considered highly intelligent, the zoo said in its announcement of his death.

Zoo officials say he once flattened cardboard boxes, connected them, slid them under his cage’s mesh wall and reached a tool rack. Using the cardboard as a tool, he grabbed a broom and pulled it into his cage.

He reportedly was one motivating force behind the zoo’s upgrade of its orangutan exhibit in 2010 at a cost of about $3.45 million.

Comments | More in General news, Homepage

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►