AH MENG - the pride of the Singapore Zoo - made history when she became its first resident to have an ultrasound scan done by an Obstetrics and Gynaecology specialist.
The procedure, performed last month at Thomson Medical Centre, was carried out after she was found to be bleeding.
A National University Hospital specialist performed a second scan, using a portable scanning machine, at the zoo about two weeks ago. In both cases, Ah Meng was accompanied by a veterinarian.
This time it showed that she had lost her baby in her second month of pregnancy - her first known miscarriage.
Yesterday, zoo director Bernard Harrison, said Ah Meng miscarried through "reabsorption" which occurs in the early stages of pregnancy. "Reabsorption is a form of miscarriage where instead of expelling the foetus, the foetus is reabsorbed into the body," he said.
Ah Meng is 25-years-old and has had three babies - Hsing Hsing, Hong Bao and Medan.
In April, Pusung, an 11-year-old Sumatran orang-utan from Perth, arrived as a mate for Ah Meng. Since then, speculation has been rife about her pregnancy.
Mr Harrison said Ah Meng is not too old to have babies. In captivity, orang-utans live till about 45 and have babies until 35.
Mr Harrison said they decided to have the ultrasound done because "we were concerned that the foetus was not doing well".
Ah Meng arrived at the hospital in a zoo vehicle, sitting next to the driver, for the appointment, which was after office hours. She came through a side entrance so as not to alarm patients.
It was the first time the specialist at Thomson Medical Centre, had treated an orang-utan. A Thomson Medical Centre spokesman said the zoo had made a "special request" on behalf of Ah Meng.
The spokesman, who was present during the ultrasound scan, said: "She was adorable, she was a very obedient lady. She behaved very well and was an excellent patient.
"And we were very impressed by her behaviour."
The scanning was done exactly the same way as for humans.
A probe was moved around her abdomen area and the foetus was seen on the television monitor.
After the procedure, she had pictures taken outside the hospital like a celebrity.
Zoo officials are optimistic that Ah Meng will conceive again. Said Mr Harrison: "We will try to mate her again when her condition has stabilised. We want her to recover from her miscarriage first."
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Aug 17, 1989.