Murder on the Hogle Express | Deep End | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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News » Deep End

Murder on the Hogle Express

Suspicious zoo deaths linked to violent orangutan.



Officials at Hogle Zoo, under fire for the skyrocketing mortality rates for their animal inmates, announced that a Bornean orangutan named Talukan, formerly an ape of interest, had been elevated to the status of prime suspect in the mysterious deaths last January of zebras Taji and Monty.

“We have taken Talukan into custody,” said Erma Gretzky, assistant zoo warden. “Actually, Talukan was already in custody, technically speaking. We simply removed him from his pen—he put up quite a struggle—and locked him into solitary confinement, where he is under a suicide watch for a couple hours a day, or whenever we can get around to it.”

Reliable sources at the beleaguered zoo reported that Talukan was among several animals who had been objects of surveillance. They had been keeping close tabs on Charo, the long-tailed chinchilla, who was said to be jealous of all the attention the wacky zebras got from visiting schoolchildren. Another animal of interest was Kenneth the snake-necked turtle, who has sulked around the zoo for years, nursing a grudge after Monty the zebra inadvertently stepped on him during a race.

But Talukan’s name came to the top of the list after he snatched a wandering peacock and began twisting its wings as horrified spectators snapped photos and took videos to show friends. (For some reason, except for KUTV, local media ignored the event: To catch a glimpse of the orangutan attacking the peacock, log on to KUTV’s Website.) According to Gretzky, Talukan was apparently attempting to silence the peacock, whom he suspected of snitching on him to zoo officials about whacking the zebras.

Sources at the zoo are currently piecing together other clues that point to the orangutan, who was born in 1986 and made the Cheyenne, Wyo., zoo his home before being transferred to Hogle. For many years, the burly Bornean ape has been a model zoo inmate, according to Hogle’s Website: “Talukan enjoys arranging his toys in his exhibit and interacting with his keepers.”

According to Ms. Gretzky, Talukan’s obsession with his toys “should have alerted us to issues that he might have had vis-a-vis zebras. I don’t want to go into detail, but let’s just say that Talukan liked to use his incisors to separate the heads from the bodies of the toy zebras we gave him to play with.”

Zoo officials, careful not to jeopardize future litigation, are reluctant to besmirch the reputation of Talukan, but they do point out that orangutans are known to be unpredictable critters. “Not all orangutans are as lovable as Clyde, Clint Eastwood’s ape in Every Which Way But Loose,” said Ms. Gretzky. “Look at what the orangutans did to Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes. They may look cuddly and innocent with those round faces and adorable tufts of hair, but at any minute they can go ape shit on you.”

Ms. Gretzky went on to express regret for letting Talukan listen to books on tape. “As you know, we are committed to ape enrichment. As our Website makes clear, ‘bubbles, sheets, paper bags, barrels, puzzle-feeders, and a variety of scents are just a few of the over 200 items we utilize for ape enrichment.’ So, it seemed a good idea at the time to enrich Talukan’s life and stimulate his mind by introducing him to books on tape. Unfortunately, the first book we gave him was a collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories, among them The Murders in the Rue Morgue. As you well know, the killer of Madame L’Espanaye and her daughter turns out to be an orangutan, or Ourang-Outang, as they called them in the old days, who climbed in the window and slit the French lady’s throat and then strangled her daughter.

“I think that story just gave Talukan the wrong idea. You know what they say: Monkey see, monkey do.”

But the arrest of Talukan the orangutan may not be the end of the story. Bonobo Bob, the chimp who last month organized a worldwide animal boycott of Hogle Zoo, told City Weekly through a chain-link fence at the eastern border of the zoo that his fellow primate is being made a scapegoat.

“Hey, orangutans eat birds in the wild, so what’s the big deal about the peacock? As for the zebras, it was suicide, pure and simple. They were at the end of their rope. If you were penned up like that, wouldn’t you kill yourself?”