Hellabrunn's youngest Orangutan dies in fatal accident

An unexpected tragedy on Christmas morning. On 25 December, Olivia, the baby orangutan at Hellabrunn Zoo, suffered a fatal accidental shortly after the group had left her sleeping area. Olivia was just under eleven months old and the youngest member of the group of Sumatran orangutans at the zoo. Although there are no witnesses to the exact course of events, the most likely cause of the accident may be related to mating. In the days prior to the accident, Bruno, the head of the group, had shown great interest in Olivia's mother Matra. And considering the enormous strength male orangutans possess, it is possible that in such moments they may inadvertently injure or even kill a baby who happens to be with the mother.

Matra with newborn Olivia in February 2014. (Credit: Tierpark Hellabrunn / Erich Kirchmayer)

Matra with newborn Olivia and older daughter Jolie (5). (Credit: Tierpark Hellabrunn / Michael Matziol)

 "Olivia was full of energy in the morning, so we can only assume that it was accident. To determine the exact cause of death, we will have to wait for the results of the necropsy," says zoo director Rasem Baban. "We believe that Olivia was literally in the wrong place at the wrong time."


Born in 1969 at Hellabrunn Zoo, Bruno is considered a peaceful father who treats his children kindly. He has fathered thirty children to date with little Olivia being his youngest child - and the favourite of the group. Olivia was looked after and cared for by her mother Matra, her older sister Jolie, half-sister Isalie and the other two female orangutans Sitti and Jahe. Just under 40 years old, Matra is a caring and experienced mother. Olivia was her fifth child. Matra has now withdrawn with her older daughter Jolie into her sleeping box and will probably not be seen by visitors for the next few days. "Both animals appear distraught and numb," explains curator Beatrix Köhler. "We need to give them time to come to terms with the death of Olivia."


Sumatran orangutans are only found in the wild on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The primate is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Hellabrunn Zoo in Munich is actively involved in the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) for the Orangutan.