PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Zoo’s oldest resident, ultra-geriatric Sumatran orangutan Inji, turned 59 this month. She is thought to be the oldest orangutan in the world.
“Inji’s in amazing shape for her age,” said Asaba Mukobi, the zoo’s senior primate keeper. “She has no major health concerns — she isn’t taking any special medication beyond aspirin. Her age and remarkable condition say a lot about the quality of care she’s received over the years.”
Inji’s actual date of birth is unknown. She was born in the wild around 1960, came to the United States through the wild animal trade (legal at the time) and was brought to the zoo by her owner in 1961. She was estimated to be around a year old when she arrived at the zoo Jan. 30, 1961 — 58 years ago today.
“We’re thankful that we’ve been able to give Inji a good home, but it’s heartbreaking to think about the circumstances that brought her here,” Mukobi said. “Even though the pet 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 comes from.”
Both the Sumatran and Bornean orangutan species are considered critically endangered, with fewer than 15,ooo Sumatran and 55,000 Bornean orangs believed to remain.
The name “orangutan” comes from the Malay “orang,” meaning man, and “hutan,” meaning wilderness or jungle. According to Mukobi, many people are struck by the orangutans’ close resemblance to humans.
“Building on that connection, we’re trying to create awareness about what’s happening to orangutans in their native lands and let people know how they can help,”Mukobi said.
Inji is currently off-view as the zoo completes work on its new Primate Forest area, featuring expanded and improved spaces for chimps and orangs. Primate Forest is one of eight major projects made possible by the community-supported zoo bond measure passed in 2008. With five of these projects now complete, the final three — new habitats for polar bears and primates, and an improved habitat for rhinos — are being managed as a single construction project.
As part of the Metro family, the Oregon Zoo helps make greater Portland a great place to call home. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects focused on saving animals from extinction include studies on polar bears, orangutans and cheetahs.
Support from the Oregon Zoo Foundation enhances and expands the zoo’s efforts in conservation, education and animal welfare. Members, donors and corporate and foundation partners help the zoo make a difference across the region and around the world.
The zoo opens at 9:30 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit trimet.org for fare and route information.