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Famed Milwaukee County Zoo orangutan's death caused by strange infection
Date:2/27/2014

MADISON Mahal, the young orangutan who became a star of the Milwaukee County Zoo and an emblem of survival for a dwindling species, led an extraordinary life.

It turns out, the young ape died an extraordinary death, too.

Rejected by his biological mother at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colo., and eventually flown to Milwaukee aboard a private jet to live with a surrogate mother, Mahal became one of the Milwaukee County Zoo's star attractions. His unexpected death at age 5 in late December 2012 was a shock to the community that came to know him through a popular newspaper feature series in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and a book that recounted his difficult start in life.

Now, thanks to cutting-edge genetic diagnostics, a team of researchers led by Tony Goldberg at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Veterinary Medicine has documented the cause of Mahal's death in the scientific literature, identifying a species of tapeworm unknown to science and newly recognized as a threat to primates.

"At the beginning, all we had were Mahal's clinical condition and a tissue sample," says Goldberg, professor in the Department of Pathobiological Sciences and associate director for research in the UW-Madison Global Health Institute. "We knew there was some type of infection in there. It could have been nearly anything. The list of potential agents was enormous."

Goldberg, a veterinarian and expert in the identification of emerging and rare diseases in humans and other primates, worked with Annette Gendron of the UW-Madison Research Animal Resources Center, David O'Connor of the UW-Madison Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and veterinarians Roberta Wallace and Victoria Clyde from the Milwaukee County Zoo, as well as UW-Madison students and colleagues at the University of Florida, to identify the agent. The team pinned Mahal's death on an unrecognized species of tapeworm in the genus '/>"/>

Contact: Tony Goldberg
tgoldberg@svm.vetmed.wisc.edu
608-890-2618
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Source:Eurekalert

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