World’s oldest orangutan dies at Oregon Zoo

PORTLAND, Ore. — What is believed to be the world’s oldest orangutan has died at the Oregon Zoo, officials said.

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Inji, who was first brought to the Portland zoo in 1961, was euthanized on Saturday, zoo officials said. The Sumatran orangutan was 61.

“We knew she couldn’t live forever, but this really hurts, and I know many visitors are grieving along with us,” Bob Lee, who oversees the zoo’s animal areas, said in a news release. “Inji’s ability to connect with people was incredible. She inspired generations.”

Lee said the orangutan seemed to study humans and enjoyed watching them, especially children, KOIN reported. The primate was known for being curious about what zoo patrons carried in their backpacks, purses and handbags.

“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 in the news release. “She remained active and inquisitive all through her golden years. She seemed to study humans and enjoy watching them, especially children.”

In the wild, orangutans rarely live past the age of 40, the zoo said in its release.

Lee said a decision was made to “humanely euthanize” Inji because it was apparent that pain medications were not effective, KIRO-TV reported.

“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,” Asaba Mukobi, the zoo’s senior primate keeper, said the zoo’s news release. “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.”

The zoo’s staff plans to honor Inji in the opening of the Primate Forest this spring.