Visitors to Hsinchu Zoo were shocked to see an orangutan swing a small deer around by the hind leg, and throw another deer from a height, yesterday, January 29.
Video and photographs of the incident show the orangutan swinging the Reeve’s muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi) in a wide arc, sometimes dragging it on the ground and hitting it against a tree trunk.
Zoo administrators said that the two species had been living together for around one year without problems, and the animals have now been separated.
The woman who took the video uploaded it to the popular local social media site DCard, and the story was then widely covered by Taiwan’s Chinese-language news outlets.
The woman posted the story anonymously, saying that it was the first time she had visited the newly renovated zoo – the oldest in Taiwan – and that the muntjac eventually escaped and ran off limping. However, around three minutes later the orangutan picked up another muntjac and treated it much the same way before throwing it down from the top of a timber climbing frame. The second incident was not caught on film.
Hsinchu Zoo administrators said that the keeping of orangutans and muntjacs together was based on the experience of zoos at home an abroad. Multispecies enclosures are based on the idea of “interspecies enrichment.” It is believed to increase the range of behavior and promote the physical and mental health of animals, zoo administrators said. Orangutans and muntjacs have been successfully kept together at Taipei Zoo and zoos in Belgium.
For the year that orangutan and Reeve’s muntjacs have been kept together at the zoo, the two species have been living in harmony and good conditions. The orangutan even shares food with the muntjacs, the zoo spokesperson said.
The zoo spokesperson said that the zoo adheres to the core values of respecting life and putting animals first, and also emphasized that the zoo does not buy or sell animals. The orangutan involved in the incident is named “Xiong Da.” Xiong Da was originally illegally smuggled into Taiwan. After being confiscated from the original illegal owner, Xiong Da lived at Chilai Farm, and was later moved to Taipei Zoo. Xiong Da has a shy and introverted personality, and living with the muntjacs was considered to be beneficial to the orangutan.
Following yesterday’s incident, the zoo veterinarian examined the muntjac and found that it was slightly lame. The muntjacs and orangutan have been separated for the time being, and will continue to be observed and evaluated by zoo keepers and specialist animal behavior trainers to decide how to proceed with the multispecies program in the future.
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