Puan, world’s oldest known Sumatran orangutan, dies aged 62
Perth Zoo has bid a tearful goodbye to Puan, dubbed the “grand old lady” of Sumatran orangutans, who died Monday.
Puan, who was believed to have been born in 1956, was gifted to the West Australian zoo by a sultan from Malaysia on New Year’s Eve in 1968.
Although the 62-year-old was recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest living Sumatran orangutan in the world, Puan’s legacy lay in the zoo’s renowned breeding program.
As the mother of 11 children, Puan’s genetics account for just under 10% of the global zoological population, according to Perth Zoo.
Puan’s 54 descendants have spread across the globe, inhabiting zoos in Europe, the United States, Australia and Singapore. Some have even been reintroduced back to the wild on the island of Sumatra.
Puan played a vital role in ensuring the viability of the Sumatran orangutan, which has been categorized as a critically endangered species, according to WWF. Only three out of nine existing population groupings contain more than 1,000 orangutans.
For her keepers, Puan’s importance went beyond just awards and statistics.
In an op-ed to the West Australian, zookeeper Martina Hart remembered Puan as “the maker of the most amazing nests, and the lady who took no nonsense from her children over the years, but was also the most nurturing mother we had.”
She even exhibited those motherly mannerisms toward her zookeepers.
“If you weren’t quick with her dinner, or you kept her inside a minute longer than she deemed necessary, she would let you know by tapping her foot to make you hurry along. You always knew were you stood with Puan,” said Hart.
Perth Zoo also posted an emotional video on their Twitter page, where Primate Supervisor Holly Thompson described Puan’s death as “calm and relaxed.”
“Puan had people who had been working with her for a long long time, with her till the very end,” she said, struggling to keep her composure.
“As hard as it was for us, it was the right thing to do,” Martina Hart added. “We’re going to miss her.”
Although Puan may have passed on, a few of her surviving descendants remain in Perth Zoo, including daughters, Puteri and Pulang; four grandchildren, Utama, Teliti, Sekara and Lestari; and great-grandson Sungai.