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Zookeeper’s heartfelt ode to the world’s oldest Sumatran orangutan

(Credit: Perth Zoo)

A keeper at the Perth Zoo has written a beautiful tribute to the world’s oldest Sumatran orangutan after she died at the age of 62 years.

Primate keeper Martina Hart worked with Puan for almost 18 years and shared her thoughts on the time she spent with the “grand old lady” by a sincere message published in the West Australian.

“It feels very unreal to have to say goodbye, we all know that life is not infinite, but for some reason Puan has always seemed to be the one who can prove us wrong,” Ms. Hart wrote.

“Puan is one of the more difficult members of our colony to write about — she is not as outgoing as Sekara, as sweet as Utama or as placid as the Dinar, but she definitely has a special place in everyone’s heart, and her legacy is just incredible.”

It is believed Puan was born around 1956, but they may be even older when she spent her early life in the jungle of Sumatra.

She was later taken from the wild and in captivity, and in 1968, was donated to Perth Zoo by the Sultan of Johore of Malaysia, in exchange for a number of native Australian animals.

In 2016, when Puan reached her 60th birthday, she earned her place in the Guinness book of World Records as the oldest living Sumatran orangutan in the world.

Although Puan was not as affectionate as some of the other orangutans, she had a huge impact on the people who cared for her in the last 50 years.

“To look at Puan is to look into the eyes of an animal (and I think even to say ‘animal’ feels a bit disrespectful) who has seen so much in her life that the mind goes on,” Ms Hart wrote.

“Puan was a ‘hands off’ individual. She was a bit distant, I remember early in my career ‘Puan will decide when and if you may touch her’!”

Ms Hart recalled how the elderly primate would tap her foot impatiently as the carers are not fast enough to bring her dinner or kept her in for longer than she liked.

Puan leaves behind an impressive legacy. They exceeded the life expectancy of the Sumatran orangutan, with most not living past the age of 50 years.

She has 11 children of her own and a grandmother and a great grandmother.

General she has 54 offspring, with 29 still alive around the world in Australia, Europe, the United States, Singapore, and Sumatra.

Her genetics count for something less than 10 percent of the global population in captivity.

Even if they reach the age of Ms Hart said Puan remained the “mother” and “dignified lady” she had always known her to be.

“Puan demanded and earned respect, and that she was sure of her guards over the years,” she wrote.

“I feel so grateful to be in her life, they are such a small part of her life. But for me, she will always remain a huge part of my life.”

She added that her legacy as a wild orangutan birth will be carried on by her great-grandson, Nyaru, who currently lives in the jungle of Sumatra.

Mrs. Hart finished the tribute by saying that she will always remember Puan as a “beautiful lady” who, despite living in captivity, to maintain its independence.

“Rest in peace Puan, you can climb like in the jungle of the sky,” she wrote.

“Thank you for your legacy, and I promise you.”

This story was previously published in the news.com.au.

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