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World’s oldest Sumatran orangutan dies at Perth Zoo
The world's oldest Sumatran orangutan, a prolific mother who is estimated to have given birth to 10% of the global population of the species in captivity, has died at the age of 62.
Puan was put down at Perth Zoo after developing age-related complications.
Sumatran orangutans, found in the northern parts of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, do not usually live beyond 50 in the wild.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature they are critically endangered animals, and their habitat is under threat from wholesale land clearing for forestry and agriculture, including palm oil production.
Puan was the matriarch of the Perth Zoo orangutan colony, mothering 11 children during its time in captivity.
The long-living primate had a total of 54 descendants worldwide, with 29 still alive today.
Its descendants currently make up nearly 10% of the total population of the species in zoos around the world.
Commenting on Puan’s death, Perth Zoo primate supervisor Holly Thompson told the ABC “apart from being the oldest member of our colony, she was also the founding member of our world-renowned breeding program and leaves an incredible legacy.
"She did so much for the colony at Perth Zoo and the survival of her species, so I am very proud of the level of care given to Puan throughout her years, but importantly in her final days."
Puan is believed to have been born in Sumatra in 1956.
She was gifted by the Sultan of Johore in exchange for some Australian animals, and has been in the care of the Perth Zoo since 1968.
Puan was awarded a Guinness Book of Records title in 2016 for being the oldest verified Sumatran orangutan in the world.
A statement from the Perth Zoo said Puan would be remembered by zoo staff as an "aloof individual who lived her life on her terms".
Thompson added “she didn't suffer fools, you always knew where you stood with Puan, and she would actually stamp her foot if she was dissatisfied with something you did.
"She was a beautiful independent lady whose legacy is unparalleled."
Zookeeper Martina Hart said Puan "went extremely peacefully", adding "Puan was a dignified, elderly lady, she was like working with your grandmother or your great-grandmother.
"She was demanding, she would stamp her feet, she would tap her feet like a little war dance when she wanted something and it wasn't coming quickly enough.
"She demanded respect and she got respect. She's just an incredible legacy.
"She's such an important individual both worldwide and just at Perth Zoo, it's not going to be the same without her."
Image courtesy of Perth Zoo.
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