Puan the "grand old lady" of Perth Zoo died 19 June, 2018, at the age of 65. She was the world's oldest known Sumatran orangutan and her legacy of 54 descendants helped save the species.
Alex Asbury—Perth Zoo
By Casey Quackenbush
June 19, 2018

The world’s oldest known Sumatran orangutan died Monday at the Perth Zoo in Australia. She passed away at the “grand old age” of 62, zookeepers said.

Puan, meaning “lady” in Indonesian, left behind an “incredible legacy” of 54 descendants including 11 children and was a celebrated matriarch who helped save her species, according to a statement from Perth Zoo.

“She did so much for the colony at Perth Zoo and the survival of her species,” said primate supervisor at Perth Zoo Holly Thompson. “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. Her genetics count for just under 10% of the global zoological population.”

Puan’s offspring spans Europe, the United States, Australasia and the jungles of Sumatra. A great grandson named Nyaru was the latest of her descendants to be released into the wild.

“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,” Perth Zoo keeper Martina Hart wrote in the West Australian paper Tuesday.

Hart paid a moving tribute to Puan, who she described as a “quiet, dignified lady” who would “tap her foot to make you hurry along” if a zookeeper was late with dinner. “Puan demanded and deserved respect,” she said.

Born in approximately 1956 on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, Puan was gifted to the Perth Zoo by Malaysia in 1968. Female orangutans rarely live past the age of 50, and in 2016, she was recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest verified living Sumatran orangutan in the world.

Sumatran orangutans are a critically endangered species with about 7,500 left in the world, according to WWF figures.

At the Perth Zoo, Puan leaves behind two daughters, four grandchildren and a great grandson.

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