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Rajang the orangutan from Colchester Zoo has died

PUBLISHED: 10:35 12 December 2018 | UPDATED: 14:40 14 December 2018

Rajang the orangutan has died Picture: DAVID MARSAY

Rajang the orangutan has died Picture: DAVID MARSAY

DAVID MARSAY

Keepers at Colchester Zoo have bid a fond farewell to one of their much loved residents, Rajang the orangutan.

Born at Chester Zoo on June 14, 1968, Rajang was hand-reared by keepers after the death of his mother Picture: DANIEL PETTITTBorn at Chester Zoo on June 14, 1968, Rajang was hand-reared by keepers after the death of his mother Picture: DANIEL PETTITT

The popular animal died on Wednesday morning after reaching the “grand old” age of 50.

Rajang was a hybrid – part Bornean and part Sumatran – and it is unclear what the life expectancy is for this type of orangutan.

Most non-hybrids have lifespans ranging from 35 to 45 years in the wild, according to conservationists.

Born in Chester Zoo on June 14, 1968, Rajang was hand-reared after the death of his mother and moved to Colchester in 1980.

The part Bornean, part Sumatran orangutan liked to clean his enclosure with his keepers Picture: DAVID MARSAYThe part Bornean, part Sumatran orangutan liked to clean his enclosure with his keepers Picture: DAVID MARSAY

For the last few years of his life, he had been receiving treatment for chronic arthritis and other age-related health problems.

Zoo staff said he initially responded well to medication – however in recent months started to lose focus and show symptoms of a degenerative neurological condition.

Vets prescribed medicine to help Rajang, but his condition further deteriorated this week and he was put to sleep.

“The most difficult but kindest decision to put Rajang to sleep had to be made to prevent our beautiful orangutan friend from suffering,” zoo bosses said.

Rajang the orangutan Picture: SCOTT DAVEYRajang the orangutan Picture: SCOTT DAVEY

“We all knew that one day this day would come as Rajang became older and that it would be very hard. However, nothing can ever prepare you for the emotions you feel after the passing of a loved one who you have known for almost all their life – and in some cases in throughout all of our own lives.

“Rajang had a very special bond with his keepers, some of whom he had known for the majority of his adult life, a bond that is irreplaceable and one which will never be forgotten.”

The loveable animal was described by the zoo as being “one of a kind”.

As a close cousin of modern day man, orangutans are typically very intelligent – and able to imitate human behaviour.

Zoo chiefs added: “Rajang always had a twinkle in his eye and despite orangutans not having the same facial muscles to express their emotions like humans, Rajang communicated through his beautiful eyes and expressions made with his mouth.

“He always showed interest in people, and no doubt there will be a number of pregnant visitors who experienced Rajang ‘kissing’ their baby bumps, something he became world famous for through viral videos.”

“Rajang would also copy his keepers’ actions, so much so that they would give him similar utensils to be able to fulfil the actions he was seeing; Rajang cleaned his own windows and also done some gardening by putting a plant in a flower pot after watching the gardener. It’s moments like these that we will treasure forever.”

The zoo are going to create a book where visitors can write their fondest memories of Rajang to share with future generations.

The Orangutan Forest will also be renamed after him to ensure his legacy lives on.

Back in June we wrote a piece on Rajang’s 50th birthday, read it here: Rajang the orangutan from Colchester Zoo celebrates 50th birthday

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