This morning, we said a very sudden and difficult goodbye to Wanita – the oldest of the three orangutans at Auckland Zoo.

At almost 43 years old, Wanita was considered ‘geriatric’ as orangutans typically have a lifespan of 40-50 years, but her passing was still unexpected. “The team found her early this morning unresponsive in her indoor habitat,” says Amy Robbins, our deputy curator of mammals. “Her passing was quick and unexpected and we did everything we could to save her but were unable to resuscitate her. This was obviously her time to go but it was not something we were prepared for just yet and right now we are all in shock.”

Athough the cause of Wanita’s death is currently unknown, she has lived with Orangutan Respiratory Disease (ORDS) for much of her later years. This is a condition that affects many orangutans and which required Zoo staff to give her medicine via a nebuliser (medication that is also used in humans to help manage chronic lung conditions like cystic fibrosis), every second month.

Our veterinary team will be conducting a post-mortem later today to help establish a cause of death, however conclusive test results will take some weeks. Our thoughts are with our incredible primate team at this difficult time, and we thank you for your support.