Puan, The World's Oldest Sumatran Orangutan, Has Died

A Sumatran orangutan (Not Puan). Petr Klabal/Shutterstock

Perth Zoo is mourning Puan, not only a beloved resident but the world's oldest Sumatran orangutan. Aged 62, she has left behind 11 children and 54 descendants, 29 of whom are still living.

Puan, nicknamed the "grand old lady of Perth Zoo", has been a resident of the institution since 1968 and had to be put down on Monday following age-related complications.


She was born in the Sumatran jungles, Indonesia, in 1956 – or so the zookeepers think. Her age was calculated using a combination of old stories, notes, and dates, which may make her true birthdate even earlier. After being taken from the wild, she was brought to the Sultan of Jahor's private zoo and later adopted by Perth Zoo. 


From the sounds of it, she was quite a character. 

"Puan was a ‘hands off’ individual. She was somewhat aloof, I remember being told early in my career," said Puan's chief zookeeper Martina Hart, who wrote her obituary for The West Australian.

"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."


Apparently, she was also a bit of a flirt, a great teacher to the younguns, and a lover of durian fruit. 

As she aged, the zookeepers noticed her "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. Puan demanded and deserved respect, and she certainly had it from all her keepers over the years."

Not only was she an important – and long-term – fixture of Perth Zoo, but she has left behind an incredible legacy in terms of her genes. The average number of children an orangutan can expect to have in the wild is four – Puan more than doubled that number by giving birth 11 times. Her genetics are now believed to count for close to 10 percent of the captive population, which is particularly important because they are an endangered species with only 14,600 or so individuals left. 

Her 54 descendants are made up of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and one of them, Nyaru, has been released into the wild to live where his great-grandmother first came from.


Puan back in 2016, when she was given the Guinness World Record for being the oldest living Sumatran orangutan in the world. No Comment TV/Youtube


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