Rolling Hills Zoo is mourning the loss of a beloved member of its animal family.
According to the zoo, female Sumatran orangutan Rusa, was euthanized due to rapidly declining health issues complicated by her advanced age of 39 years. Preliminary results of a necropsy determined that her failing health was due to advanced kidney disease pending the results of the histology and other samples.
Rusa, who had called Rolling Hills Zoo home for the last 21 years, was born on April 3, 1980, at Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Druid Hills, Georgia. From there she was relocated to Zoo Atlanta in 1991, and then to Sedgwick County Zoo in 1996. Her final move was to Rolling Hills Zoo in February 1998.
Known by her keepers for her spunky personality, especially in her younger years, Rusa did not respond well to people that she did not know. So in order to make a connection with her the keepers had to acquire her trust. Sometimes this would happen fairly quickly and sometimes she made them work for it. Once her trust was acquired it was never forgotten.
She also taught the staff patience as she loved to stay outside in the evenings as long as possible before coming in for her supper. Rusa was also very observant and even if she did not appear to be watching what staff were doing, she was. She also knew exactly how far she could reach objects sitting outside of her exhibit. On more than one occasion she managed to fish a garden hose into her exhibit with a stick and hold it for ransom in exchange for her favorite foods . . . and sometimes she just said, “No thanks, I think I will keep it”.
One of Rusa’s favorite enrichment items was a spinning devise that hung from a climbing structure in her dayroom with a piece of fabric attached to it. She loved to hang on and spin in circles as fast as she could. “When the keepers were present, we would cheer and clap with her, which we always thought she enjoyed hearing,” shared Vickie Musselman, RHZ Registrar. Rusa and her big personality will be greatly missed by visitors and staff alike.
During her residency at Rolling Hills Zoo, Rusa shared the great ape habitat with several companions including Robbie, who was not only a fan favorite with guests but also with Rusa, Rubi, a female orangutan who shared the quarters with Rusa and Robbie from 2000 to 2003 before moving to the Albuquerque Zoo, Clyde who arrived from San Diego in 2011, and Mango who moved from Zoo Miami in 2018 and remains to this day.
Sumatran orangutan’s are one of three orangutan species and are only found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Bornean, Sumatran and Tapanuli orangutans are all listed as critically endangered species due to habitat loss, and illegal exotic pet trading and hunting.