World’s oldest known Sumatran orangutan (62) dies in Australian zoo

Puan recognised by Guinness Book of Records as oldest verified member of species in 2016

Sumatran orangutan known as Puan, which is Indonesian for ‘lady’, at Perth Zoo where she has lived since being gifted by Malaysia in 1968. Photograph: Alex Asbury/AFP/Getty Images

Sumatran orangutan known as Puan, which is Indonesian for ‘lady’, at Perth Zoo where she has lived since being gifted by Malaysia in 1968. Photograph: Alex Asbury/AFP/Getty Images

 

Zookeepers have paid emotional tribute to the world’s oldest known Sumatran orangutan, “a grand old lady” who died at a Western Australian zoo on Monday.

Puan was given to Perth zoo in 1968 and is believed to have been born in Sumatra 1956. At 62 years she lived well beyond her typical life expectancy and was recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest verified member of her species in 2016.

According to the zoo, Sumatran orangutans rarely live beyond the age of 50.

Puan played a key role in breeding programmes and gave birth to 11 orangutans. She has 54 descendants in Australia, the US, Indonesia and elsewhere around the world.

“Apart from being the oldest member of our colony, she was also the founding member of our world-renowned breeding programme and leaves an incredible legacy,” said Holly Thompson, the zoo’s primate supervisor in a statement.

A handout photo made available by Perth Zoo shows Puan, the matriarch of Perth Zoo’s Sumatran Orangutan colony, in her enclosure at Perth Zoo in 2016. Photograph: Alex Asbury/AFP/Getty Images
A handout photo made available by Perth Zoo shows Puan, the matriarch of Perth Zoo’s Sumatran Orangutan colony, in her enclosure at Perth Zoo in 2016. Photograph: Alex Asbury/AFP/Getty Images

“Her genetics count for just under 10 per cent of the global zoological population.”

Puan was euthanised on Monday after suffering age-related complications that the zoo said were affecting her quality of life.

Zookeeper Martina Hart, who had worked with Puan for 18 years, wrote a heartfelt obituary after her death.

“Over the years Puan’s eyelashes had greyed, her movement had slowed down and her mind had started to wander. But she remained the matriarch, the quiet, dignified lady she had always been,” wrote Hart in the obituary.

“Puan demanded and deserved respect, and she certainly had it from all her keepers over the years. She was the founding female of the best breeding colony in the world.”

“Puan taught me patience, she taught me that natural and wild instincts never disappear in captivity. She was in a zoo environment, but to the end she always maintained her independence.”

Hsing Hsing, Perth zoo’s oldest male Sumatran orangutan died in 2017.–Guardian