Orangutan Bites Thumbs


Dave Zapotosky, Toledo Blade

An orangutan (presumably Bajik) sits in his indoor enclosure.

Shomudro Gupta, Staff

An orangutan at a zoo in Toledo, Ohio recently injured a volunteer, detaching the victim’s thumb. According to Shayla Bell Moriarty, the Zoo’s Vice President and Chief of Staff, the volunteer was working with two paid keepers in a back of house area in the Zoo’s Kingdom of the Apes building. During the routine feeding, a 14-year-old male named Bajik “reached through the mesh enclosure and made contact with the unpaid staff member’s hand.” It should be noted that the volunteer did not share the same space as the orangutan, following a standing procedure called “Protected Contact”. In the event that an animal is larger and has more physical strength than a human, keepers interact through a mesh or steel barrier, training the animal to present various body parts for routine veterinary procedures through positive reinforcement and operant conditioning. Moriarty then stated that based off of what the zoo currently knows, Bajik stuck his fingers through the small gap between the bars, grabbed the volunteer’s arm by the thumb, and bit down on her arm. During the encounter, her thumb became detached. An investigation is ongoing, yet is hindered by the fact that there are no CCTV systems in the facility that could have recorded the incident. The victim is currently getting treated at a nearby hospital., and it is unknown what her status is. The injury is non-lethal.