Body Worlds anatomist wants drowned German orangutan

After the tragic drowning death of the orangutan Leila in Hamburg this week, controversial anatomist Gunther von Hagens said he wants to use her body in one of his plastination exhibitions, Neue Presse reported on Friday.

Body Worlds anatomist wants drowned German orangutan
Von Hagens with the late gorilla Arti, who drowned in Hannover. Photo: DPA

“We are highly interested in the body of the poor primate,” he told the paper. “We would really like to exhibit a plastinated orangutan some time. It would be perfect if we could get Leila for that.”

The orangutan Von Hagens wants died tragically at Hagenbeck Tierpark zoo in Hamburg after falling and drowning when a visitor tried to feed her.

Von Hagens told the paper that guest books from his Body Worlds exhibitions have proved that animals are the most popular attraction.

“The gorilla Arti, for example, is the most popular plastinate at our Manchester exhibition,” he said. Arti met a similar fate to Leila after drowning at the Hannover zoo in 2000.

Von Hagens invented plastination, a means of preserving biological tissue to show how inner anatomical systems work. His plastination exhibitions have been criticized for not showing proper reverence to the human body.

Leila died on Wednesday after an unidentified visitor disobeyed zoo rules on Wednesday and threw a piece of bread that landed in a water enclosure. The ten-year-old orangutan tried to retrieve the bread, but fell into the water instead.

“Like all primates, she couldn’t swim, and sank immediately,” zoo keeper Walter Wolters told news agency DPA on Thursday, adding that her thick fur saturated quickly, weighing her down even more.

The endangered orangutan’s death is particularly tragic for the zoo because she was intended for breeding.

There is no trace of the person who threw the bread.

Zookeepers await Leila’s autopsy report, after which her body will be given to the University of Hamburg for research before she is stuffed and displayed, Wolters said.

Orangutans are native to the rain forests of Indonesia and Malaysia. They live to be up to 30 years in the wild, and up to 50 years in captivity.