It’s not often that specialists make a house call, but for one resident of Adelaide Zoo, they made an exception.
Adelaide Zoo’s Sumatran orangutan, Kluet, was recently visited by North Adelaide Dental Care at the Zoo’s Animal Health Centre to sort out some problem chompers while the zoo’s veterinarian team checked he was in tip-top health.
Zoos SA Veterinarian David McLelland said the 26-year-old orangutan has had some dental trouble with some of his teeth becoming loose.
“Kluet has had some discomfort with some of his teeth and leading up to this procedure we were providing him with pain relief and modified his diet to make it easier for him to eat,” he said.
“We found four teeth that were loose and needed to come out. There are a range of factors that can lead to periodontal disease in humans and other animals and we continue to look into what could be behind Kluet’s dental problems.
“We’ve removed all sources of dental pain now and his keepers have trained him for tooth brushing. Hopefully now that the discomfort is gone Kluet will participate in longer tooth brushing sessions.”
North Adelaide Dental Care’s Dr Greg Miller kindly donated his time to work on Kluet and did a thorough check of the great ape’s teeth and gums.
“Like 25 per cent of the Australian population, Kluet is suffering from a gum disease we see commonly in humans, periodontitis,” he said.
“We undertook an examination, gum check, scale and clean and four extractions. In working with Adelaide Zoo’s veterinary team, we can optimise Kluet’s oral health and help preserve his remaining teeth.
“In the same way people with loose teeth or bleeding gums should visit their local dentist to also get assessed and treated. Kluet was no different to provisioning dental care to a human, he was just a whole lot hairier!”
While under anaesthetic the veterinary team also gave Kluet a general check up with a team of specialised professionals volunteering their time to help.
This team included Steve Braunsthal, Senior Sonographer at Nightingale Cardiology, who undertook an echocardiogram, veterinary diagnostic imaging specialist, Xander Huising, who gave Kluet an ultrasound to check his abdominal organs, and University of Adelaide veterinary anaesthetist Anthony Nicholson.
Dr McLelland said the Zoos SA team were very grateful to all those for lending their time and expertise.
He went on to say that Kluet was in good health and the results of his cardiac exam will be shared with the Great Ape Heart Project (GAHP), an international program that collates data and conducts research on heart disease in great apes, which is not uncommon in these species.
“We were keen to take the opportunity to get baseline images and measurements of Kluet’s heart so as we monitor his cardiac health over time we are well positioned to be able identify abnormalities that might indicate heart disease,” Dr McLelland said.
Medical Director at Nightingale Cardiology, Dr Andrew Hamilton, said the decision to assist Zoos SA was an easy one.
“We were very pleased to partner with Adelaide Zoo on this exciting project. We are always interested in any research opportunities, and investigations into the heart of great apes can lead to a better understanding of the human heart,” he said.
Mr Braunsthal, who performed the procedure, had been in close contact with the GAHP in preparation.
“The GAHP, through comparative studies into heart structure and function, has helped us to better understand the human heart and the importance of aerobic exercise,” he said.
“This comparison between the human heart and chimpanzee, gorilla and orangutan hearts is remarkable given we share roughly 99, 98 and 97 per cent of our DNA, respectively.”
Kluet was born at Jersey Zoo in the UK in 1995 and arrived at Adelaide Zoo in 2007. When he arrived, he was a lanky teenager. Since then he has grown to have all the defining characteristics of a large mature adult male orangutan, with long, matted hair and large cheek pads, or flanges.
In the wild, it is estimated that there are only around 7,000 Sumatran orangutans remaining and, with populations under increasing threat, it is feared they will become extinct in the next 10 years.
One of the greatest threats to the Sumatran orangutan is habitat loss due to the unsustainable production of palm oil, an ingredient found in around half of all supermarket products as well as bioplastics, biofuels and lubrication oils meaning it is part of the manufacturing chain for many products well beyond those we find on the supermarket shelves.
Zoos South Australia works alongside sixteen other zoo-based conservation and wildlife organisations across Australia and New Zealand to drive the global transition to Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.
The mission of the Responsible Palm Oil Network is to work with Australasian manufacturers to move to using Certified Sustainable Palm Oil and to introduce clear palm oil labelling.
Visitors can see Sumatran Orangutans Puspa and Kluet at Adelaide Zoo. Zoos SA operates a vaccination mandate and requires all guests aged 12 and over to show proof of vaccination (unless exempt). A team of helpful staff is always on hand to facilitate a smooth entry and help with finding certificates and using QR codes. We encourage all visitors to pre-book their tickets at www.adelaidezoo.com.au/tickets.