Perth home to world’s oldest Sumatran orangutan

By Shannon Verhagen October 31, 2016
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Her name is Puan and at 60 years of age, she’s officially broken the Guinness World Record.

PERTH ZOO’S OLDEST orangutan is being celebrated after breaking a Guinness World Record earlier this month.

After over 18 months of research into Puan’s history and records, it was determined the matriarch was 60 years old – the oldest-known living Sumatran orangutan on Earth.

Primate keeper Martina Hart has been working with Puan for 16 years, and said receiving the accolade was a momentous occasion.

“It’s very cool – we’re very excited for her,” Martina said. “In the wild, females will live to maybe 50 – if they get that far. It’s a testament to the keepers and the vet care.”

Puan is one of 10 Sumatran orangutans at the zoo, first arriving in 1968 as a gift from Malaysia’s Sultan Johore in exchange for a number of Australian animals.

puan orangutan

Puan, the world’s oldest Sumatran orangutan, has ‘retired’ from Perth Zoo’s breeding program. (Image: Alex Asbury)

In the 48 years following, Martina says Puan has played a vital role in the zoo’s breeding program, giving birth to 11 offspring – with numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren spread across the globe.

Since 1970, Perth Zoo has bred 29 orangutans as part of the world-renowned program, and is the only zoo in the world to have released zoo-bred orangutans back to the wild.

Martina says three of Puan’s offspring have been released into protected habitat, with Puan teaching them essential skills to survive in the wild.

“She’s so special to us, she’s the founding female in one of the most successful breeding programs in the world,” Martina said.

“We’re talking about a critically endangered species – and she’s done so much for it. I just think her name should be shouted from the rooftops.”

Retiring with a world record

Surpassing the species’ life expectancy by a decade, Martina says Puan is now in retirement, with her last daughter born over 20 years ago.

“She’s definitely now an elderly lady – she likes things done her way,” Martina explained, adding, “if you’re a bit late with dinner, she stamps her feet like a bit of a war dance.

“She’s 60, she’s earned the right to be a bit impatient.”

Staff have yet to decide where the framed certificate will be hung, but Martina said Puan was treated to a celebratory meal when it arrived. “She got some rambutans and an extra yummy breakfast – we’re proud of her,” she said.

“She’s a grand old dame that I love working with.”