Topeka Zoo Orangutan Suffers Stillbirth, Undergoes Emergency C-Section

Dr. Leon Conner, a veterinarian of Highland Park Animal Hospital, and Dr. John Evans, a Perinatologist from Stormont Vail, perform emergency surgery on Lena the orangutan at the Topeka Zoo Friday, Jan. 11, 2011. (Topeka Zoo photo)

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - One of the Topeka Zoo's two pregnant orangutans suffered a miscarriage and, Friday night, was herself in guarded condition.

30-year-old Lena was due next month. Zoo Director Brendan Wiley says she started showing complications Wednesday, but refused to cooperate with exams.

Friday, Stormont-Vail perinatoloist Dr. John Evans and veterinarian Dr. Leon Conner of Highland Park Animal Hospital assisted zoo veterinarian Dr. Shirley Llizo with an exam. They used anesthesia in order to do an ultrasound, which showed the fetus had no heartbeat.

Attempts to get Lena to naturally deliver were unsuccessful, so they did an emergency c-section. They found Lena had a significant rupture to her uterus and the baby was outside it. Because of the risks of the condition, they also did a hysterectomy.

In all, the team worked five and a half hours, finishing around 8 pm Friday. Wiley says the next 24 hours are critical in determining how Lena handled the extended time under anesthesia. After that, she'll be monitored closely for any signs of infection.

Wiley says the procedure is very rare for an orangutan - he's aware of it being done only about a handful of times previously.

Wiley says the zoo's other pregnant orangutan, Rudy, is doing well with her pregnancy.