World's Oldest Sumatran Orangutan Emotionally Farewelled By Perth Zoo
"To look at Puan is to look into the eyes of an animal who has seen so much in her lifetime that the mind boggles."
In a eulogy indeed fit for a "grand old lady", a zookeeper has paid tribute to the world's oldest Sumatran orangutan.
Puan, the 62-year-old matriarch of the Perth Zoo, was put to sleep due to age related complications on Monday. She arrived in Western Australia in 1968.
Puan was awarded the Guiness World Record for being the oldest living Sumatran orangutan in the world in 2016.
Zookeeper Martina Hart, who has known Puan for 18 years, penned a heartfelt farewell to the orangutan who left behind an "incredible legacy".
"It feels quite surreal to have said goodbye, we all know that life isn’t infinite, but for some reason Puan has always just seemed to be the one who might prove us wrong," Hart wrote in a eulogy published in the West Australian newspaper.
"There really aren’t words to describe Puan and the impact she has had on not only the breeding program at Perth Zoo, but also on the people who over the past 50-odd years have cared for her."
With 54 descendants -- 29 of which are still living -- Puan's genetics count for just under 10 percent of the global captive population of orangutans. Born in the jungles of Sumatra, she made the journey to Perth Zoo after being a part of the Sultan of Jahore's private zoo.
Hart said even after her movement had slowed and her mind began to wonder, Puan remained the "quiet, dignified lady she had always been."
"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...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."
The zookeeper recounted memories of the orangutan, including her ability to let everyone know where she stood with them, retaining a "hands off" attitude and even tapping her foot in impatience if her dinner wasn't quick enough.
"I feel so grateful to have been in her life, albeit to have been such a small part of her life. It’s my absolute wish for her to be remembered for the beautiful, independent lady that she was and I think it’s an amazing legacy for her great grandson Nyaru to be out living his life in the jungles of Sumatra, where his great grandmother hailed from."
"Rest in peace Puan, may you climb happily in the jungles of the sky. Thank you for giving us your legacy, and I promise we’ll look after your family."