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'We knew she couldn't live forever, but this really hurts, and I know many visitors are grieving along with us.'

COURTESY PHOTO: MICHAEL DURHAM/OREGON ZOO. - Inji, 61, was believed to be the oldest orangutan on the planet. She died Jan. 9.The Oregon Zoo said Saturday, Jan. 9, that Inji, a 61-year-old Sumatran orangutan, died. She was thought to be the oldest orangutan in the world.

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

Zoo officials said Inji's health had deteriorated during the past few weeks. When it was apparent that pain medications were not helping, zoo veterinary and care staff decided to humanely euthanize her.

In the wild, orangutans rarely live past 40. Zoo officials said Inji's date of birth was 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 thought to be around a year old when she arrived, on Jan. 30, 1961.

"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," said Asaba Mukobi, the zoo's senior primate keeper. "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."

Zoo staff will honor Inji at the opening of Primate Forest, a new habitat for chimpanzees and orangutans.


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