Toba TLC: A Few Teeth Lighter, But on the Mend

UPDATE (6/29/18): Toba continues improving after her dental procedure on Friday, May 25. She has a good appetite and is eating well, though she remains partial to softer foods. Caretakers continue to give Toba access to her indoor habitat at Great EscApe during the day and report she is off her post-surgery medications.

UPDATE (6/6/18): While Toba continues to heal, caretakers report her recovery is progressing well. She is still somewhat picky about what foods she will eat, but is back in her outdoor habitat area part-time.  

When OKC Zoo Great EscApe caretakers noticed Sumatran orangutan Toba, 50, was acting lethargic and not eating, they notified the veterinary team and quickly scheduled an exam. Due to Toba’s advanced age (the Association of Zoos and Aquariums reports the median life expectancy for a female Sumatran orangutan is 32.8 years) caretakers didn’t want to waste time.

During the subsequent exam, it was discovered that Toba had severe dental disease, including a bacterial infection in her jaw. As a result, local dentist Colin Holman of Dental Expressions was brought in to consult and assist in her treatment.

Dr. Holman removed seven of Toba’s infected teeth. Veterinary staff said this is not an uncommon occurrence for geriatric apes and that she would receive antibiotics to fight the infection and medication to help alleviate the short-term pain of the dental procedure.

Toba will remain behind-the-scenes, off public view, for a week to 10 days as she continues to heal. Her caretakers are monitoring her for the next days and will be making adjustments to her daily diet to accommodate the loss of teeth. Stay tuned to the Zoo’s blog and social media for updates.

Born in 1967 in Germany’s Nuremburg Zoo, Toba arrived at the OKC Zoo in 1975 and has delighted millions of guests and helped spread the critical message of habitat and species conservation. She is the second-oldest orangutan in an AZA-accredited North American zoo and the oldest zoo-born orangutan in the US.

In 2016, the Oklahoma City Zoo began a partnership with Rainforest Trust, a conservation organization whose mission is to work with local partners to purchase and protect threatened tropical forests. Using funds donated by OKC Zoo guests through the Zoo’s grassroots program, Round Up for Conservation, the Rainforest Trust purchased 13,000 acres of rainforest in central Sumatra, an area five times the size of Oklahoma City’s Lake Hefner. This lowland forest is rich in biodiversity and is now designated as part of a protected area that is over 200,000 acres in size. The area is now safe from conversion to palm oil plantations and logging and patrolled to prevent illegal activities, such as poaching. It is home to some of the Zoo’s most popular and endangered species, including Asian elephants, Sumatran tigers and Sumatran orangutans. The Zoo also contributed funds from its Round Up for Conservation program to have 20 trees planted in Toba’s name as part of the forest restoration project in northern Sumatra. 

Photos by Andrea Johnson & Sabrina Heise    

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