The Memphis Zoo is deeply saddened to announce the
death of “Debbie,” the oldest of the Zoo’s siamangs. Debbie died Wednesday,
January 13 at the age of 47 after her health began to dramatically decline
earlier in the month. She was the oldest female siamang in North America.
As Zoo keepers and veterinarians began to notice her decline, she was put on
Zoo hospice care to closely monitor her health and keep her as comfortable as
possible. Out of the Zoo’s deep love for this animal, the decision was made to euthanize
her in order to avoid prolonging any suffering.
“Debbie was a well-known animal here at the Memphis Zoo,” said Chuck
Brady, Memphis Zoo CEO & President. “What’s more is she was well-loved by
visitors and staff alike. She had a wonderful life, and we’re proud of the care
we gave her.”
was a wild-caught animal that moved to the Memphis Zoo with her long-time mate,
“Danny,” in 1969. Many Zoo guests will
remember the pair in their exhibit off the old Primate House. Debbie and Danny
could be seen swinging back and forth throughout the days.
they moved so fast, they were a blur,” Brady said.
Curator Houston Winbigler agreed.
taught thousands of visitors the word ‘brachiate,’ which refers to how apes use
their arms to move from branch to branch,” said Winbigler.
also taught Memphians how loud they could be.
“Their piercing calls could be heard all over
Midtown,” Winbigler said.
couple moved from the old Primate House to their new, state-of-the-art Primate
Canyon exhibit in 1994. When Danny
passed away in 2002, Debbie was introduced to new friends, in quite an
that Debbie needed companionship, the decision was made to create a mixed
species exhibit. Debbie was introduced to the orangutan yard and family. This
worked especially well considering both species are arboreal, or tree dwelling,
orangutan exhibit offered more space for Debbie and the opportunity to interact
with another species,” said Matt Thompson, Director of Animal Program. “It
became apparent rather quickly that Debbie had formed a special friendship with
it was an unusual move, it certainly proved to be a prudent one. Debbie and
“Chickie,” our 38-year old, female Sumatran Orangutan, built a friendship
forged on trust, mutual admiration and a little patience.
two became the best of friends. Chickie often groomed Debbie, and they even
slept in the same room. There were many days when keepers would find them
cuddled up together.
Debbie got older, keepers began to notice her mobility on the ground becoming a
challenge for her. She walked slowly and cautiously, almost in a hunched fashion.
In order to keep her active, mobile and happy, the decision was made to make
alterations to the orangutan yard.
lowered the height of her ropes, which made the trees more accessible. This
simple adaptation allowed Debbie to continue swinging through the air with the
greatest of ease, and reach all parts of her yard.
Memphis Zoo family will miss its beloved “Debbie Siamang.”
who would like to pay their respects may leave cards and flowers at the gorilla
statue on the Zoo’s front plaza on Saturday, February 13, 2016.
About the Memphis
The Memphis Zoo has had siamangs in its collection since 1969, when
Debbie and Danny arrived. Siamangs are loud, vocal primates whose cries can be
heard throughout the Zoo, especially in the morning hours. The Zoo currently has a pair of siamangs, “Loki” and “Raya” in Primate