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North America's oldest male orangutan dies at 45

At 45, Rudi is the oldest male orangutan in North America. He's been at the zoo since he was two months old.

HOUSTON — After celebrating his 45th birthday earlier this month, the oldest male orangutan in North America has died, according to the Houston Zoo.

Editor's note: The main video in this story is from Rudi's birthday celebration.

The zoo posted to Facebook Wednesday:

"It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Zoo family member, Rudi Valentino, North America’s oldest male orangutan. He passed away just a few days after turning 45. Rudi came to the Houston Zoo in 1978 and over the years, he won the hearts of countless volunteers, guests, and staff with his gentle nature and intelligent personality.

"Rudi had advanced heart disease, which is a common problem in adult male orangutans. Up until the time of his death, it was very well managed with careful monitoring and medications."

He was born on Dec. 8, 1977, at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, according to the zoo. He arrived at the Houston Zoo in 1978. In 1991, Rudi moved to the Milwaukee Zoo and back to Houston in 1993.

For his birthday this month, his animal care team gave him his favorite treats and sang "Happy Birthday"  to him! He enjoyed all the attention from his keepers and foraging for treats.

Animal care professionals reported that Rudi was not showing signs of illness leading up to his death.

“Rudi was an incredible ambassador for his species,” said Tarah Cornelius, director of animal care at the Houston Zoo. “Rudi will be deeply missed by all who knew him, and his memory will live on through the lives he touched and the important work he inspired. He will always be remembered as a beloved member of the Houston Zoo family.”

The zoo said its animal care team will keep an eye on Rudi’s companion, Kelly, and the other remaining orangutans, Takai, Cheyenne, and Aurora, for signs of grief.

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