Oregon Zoo confirms firings related to orangutan's death

Zoo director, chief vet were let go this week

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Metro, the Portland regional government agency that operates the Oregon Zoo, released a statement today confirming two employees were fired this week over the death of an orangutan.

The employees who were terminated were identified as Zoo Director Kim Smith and lead veterinarian Mitch Finnegan.

Here is the statement:

Statement from Metro on recent staffing changes at the Oregon Zoo

In operating the Oregon Zoo, Metro’s first commitment is to the animals. Every day our goal is to uphold high standards for accountability and integrity when it comes to animal care. Information came to our attention that raised questions about whether these standards were met in relation to the death of the zoo’s Sumatran orangutan Kutai.

We conducted a careful investigation of the circumstances surrounding Kutai’s death and concluded mistakes were made and important information was not fully disclosed.

  • Key findings from Metro’s investigation include:
  • Standard operating procedures and best practices were not followed.
  • Lapses in procedures and protocols were tolerated.

There was a lack of trust regarding the accuracy of reports and whether important facts regarding animal care were omitted.

Metro will work with veterinary and animal care staff to implement a thorough and thoughtful review of animal care procedures and protocols. While the exact scope and timing are under development, Metro is committed to collaborating with experts in animal care, from both inside and outside of Metro, to ensure we continue to make the most of the Oregon Zoo’s new veterinary medical center and that our animal care reflects best practices.

Because the investigation involves personnel actions Metro will not be releasing more specific details at this time.