The world’s oldest orangutan Inji has died aged 61 at Oregon Zoo, where he lived for half a century, this weekend.
The female Sumatran orangutan lived to 61 years old but her health had taken a hit in recent weeks.
Inji had recently been struggling to move and would rarely leave her nesting box.
Staff at the zoo said she had been showing barely any interest in food, even her favourites.
After showing no signs of improvement despite being administered for her pain, vets decided the best course of action was to ‘humanely euthanize’ the animal.
Oregon Zoo’s 61-year-old Sumatran orangutan was euthanized on Saturday after her health deteriorated
Inji, who was the oldest animal at zoo in Oregon, was put to sleep on Saturday.
In a public statement announcing Inji’s death, zoo staff member Bob Lee said: ‘We knew she couldn’t live forever but this really hurts, and I know many visitors are grieving along with us.
‘Inji’s ability to connect with people was incredible. She inspired generations.’
He noted that despite her age, the orangutan had continued to be inquisitive and show a keen interest in watching humans who came to visit.
In particular, he was very curious to find out what was inside people handbags, purses and backpacks.
‘Some volunteers, staff and guests would make a point to carry wind-up toys or brightly colored items in their bags just to show Inji,’ Lee said.
The much-loved animal’s health had deteriorated in recent weeks and she struggled to move properly
After barely leaving her box nest, showing no interest in her favourite foods and not responding to meds the vets decided to euthanize her humanely
‘She remained active and inquisitive all through her golden years. She seemed to study humans and enjoy watching them, especially children.’
The much-loved animal exceeded the expected lifetime of wild orangutans by more than 20 years but her health had begun to deteriorate in the past few years.
In 2012, Inji appeared in an article which detailed how the zoo looks after its elderly animals approaching the end of life.
But, despite this, she continued on as normal with no major health concerns until recent weeks.
Oregon Zoo took her in when she was around one year old on January 30, 1961, and she remained there ever since. Her birth day is unknown.
Inji was born in the wild and was brought to the US through wild animal trade – which was legal at the time.
Inji came to Oregon Zoo when she was around one year old on January 30, 1961, and lived there for the rest of her life
Asaba Mukobi, the zoo’s senior primate keeper, said: ‘We’re thankful that we were able to give Inji a good home but it’s heartbreaking to think about the circumstances that brought her here.
‘Even though the wild animal trade is illegal now, it still exists. It is considered a major threat to orangutans’ survival, along with human encroachment and habitat loss from palm oil plantations.
‘Orangutans are at the brink of extinction — especially in Sumatra, where Inji came from.’
Every species of orangutan is critically endangered, with less than 800 Tapanuli, 15,000 Sumatran and 55,000 Borean remaining.
The zoo plans to honor Inji at the opening of the new Primate Forest habitat for chimpanzees and orangutans scheduled in the spring.