Inji, believed to be world’s oldest orangutan, dies at Oregon Zoo at age 61

Inji
Inji the orangutan in the Red Ape Reserve habitat at the Oregon Zoo.© Oregon Zoo / photo by Michaek Durham.

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) — The Oregon Zoo is mourning the loss of one of its most beloved residents Inji, who was thought to be the oldest orangutan in the world.

The zoo says Inji’s health deteriorated over the past few weeks. After it became apparent that medications were not helping, the zoo says care staff made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize her on Saturday.

Inji was 61 years old.

“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.”

Inji was born in the wild around 1960 and came to the U.S. through the wild animal trade, which was legal at the time. She was then brought to the Oregon Zoo by her owner in 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.”

Staff plan to honor Inji at the opening of Primate Forest, the zoo’s new habitat for chimpanzees and orangutans.

The zoo says the habitat — one of eight major projects made possible by a community-supported zoo bond measure passed in 2008 — is nearly complete and scheduled to open this spring.