World News

Singapore Zoo's celebrity orangutan "Ah Meng" dies

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Ah Meng, an iconic orangutan of the Singapore Zoo who featured in almost 30 travel films and rubbed shoulders with movie stars and royalty, died on Friday of old age, the Singapore Zoo said. She was around 48.

Singapore Zoo will hold a special memorial on Sunday as a tribute to the orangutan, a star at the zoo for the past quarter-century after the “breakfast with Ah Meng” programme was launched, the zoo said in a statement.

“She has touched the hearts of everyone who has met her and contributed immensely in helping promote awareness of how each and every one of us can play a role in anti-poaching, anti-deforestation and conservation matters,” said Fanny Lai, group chief executive of Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

“We will miss her dearly.”

Orangutans, native to Malaysia and Indonesia, are a species of great apes known for their intelligence, long arms and reddish brown hair. They are highly endangered due to destruction of their rainforest habitats.

Born in Indonesia around 1960, Ah Meng came to the zoo in 1971 after she was confiscated from a family who had kept her as an illegal pet.

She featured in almost 30 travel films and was the subject of more than 270 articles in newspapers and magazines, the statement said. She also became the first and only non-human recipient of the “Special Tourism Ambassador” award in the city-state.

Ah Meng mingled with famous personalities such as Britain’s Prince Philip, magician David Copperfield, pop singer Michael Jackson and movie star Elizabeth Taylor.

She leaves behind two sons and two daughters, as well as six grandchildren. In human terms, she was 95 when she died. As a tribute to Ah Meng, the next newborn orangutan at the Zoo will be named Ah Meng Junior, the Singapore Zoo said.