Dublin Zoo orangutan Sibu - the ‘zen monk’ of Phoenix Park - dies at 45

‘He was gentle, caring and highly intelligent, forming strong bonds with the keepers who cared for him’

Dublin Zoo has announced the death of Sibu, its male orangutan, at the age of 45.

“Everyone in Dublin Zoo is devastated by the loss of Sibu, who has been an iconic figure at the Zoo since he first arrived 40 years ago this year,” the Phoenix Park attraction posted on X on Thursday.

“He was gentle, caring and highly intelligent, forming strong bonds with the keepers who cared for him. His absence will be felt by the whole team, and undoubtedly by the millions of visitors who were fortunate enough to see him over the years.”

A much photographed great ape, Sibu had a languid demeanour - captured by Irish Times writer Rosita Boland on a visit to the zoo in 2016.


Looking “like a monk, cloaked in shaggy robes that are in fact his own fur”, “Sibu has the most astonishing eyes. Honestly, if a zen monk could be reincarnated as an orangutan, it’s Sibu at Dublin Zoo.

“Sibu sits. A keeper throws a chunk of turnip his way. A paw goes up, and he catches it. Then Sibu has a long existential primate zen moment.

“He holds up the turnip, and regards it silently. For at least five minutes. Then he slowly eats it... There’s something curiously meditative and restful about it.”

Sibu lived with three female orangutans - Leonie, Riona, Majur - in a habitat that was revamped almost a decade ago, under a €3m investment that encouraged the primates to do more daily climbing for their food.

The Bornean orangutan, who weighed about 140kg and had an arm span of three meters, also had a seven-year spell in the 2000s at Rhenen Zoo, in the Netherlands for breeding purposes.

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