Saying Goodbye To Orangutan Mahal


by Elizabeth Fay

MILWAUKEE -- The public says goodbye to one of Milwaukee County Zoo's most beloved animals, a 5-year-old orangutan named Mahal. One by one visitors pay their respects to him at a makeshift memorial wall across from his former habitat.

"He was cool!" says Kenya Salaam, 8, who drew a picture of Mahal with flowers and balloons.

"He was very child-like. He played with legos. He had a pool. He watercolored," adds Bridget Kirkish who volunteers at the zoo.

A zookeeper tells CBS 58 that most orangutan's live into their 40s. Mahal was only five years old, so his death from pneumonia on Saturday came as a shock.

"He wasn't really showing any signs of illness. The day before he had a little cough," says Waier.

Mahal's legacy lives on in a book about his life as a foster child. "His parents abandoned him at birth. He was sent to another zoo with a foster mom who was 51 years old who passed away in her sleep one day," says Kirkish.

Mahal was then matched with MJ, an adult orangutan who took on the role as mom. Mahal's passing has evidently taken a toll on her.

"She's looking around. She looks around as if she is expecting Mahal to be there. She is sullen. Her behavior is somewhat withdrawn," says Waier.

As visiting hours at the zoo wind down, Mahal's memorial wall fills up. It's evidence the little guy made a big impression.





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