Saturday, February 09, 2008

Ah Meng

" Ah Meng, the Sumatran orang utan that was considered an icon at the Singapore Zoo, died on Friday. She was about 48 years old and had died of old age. In 1971, Ah Meng was confiscated from a family which had illegally kept her as a pet. She then found her home at the Singapore Zoo. Ah Meng was the first to host the Zoo's famous 'Breakfast With An Orang Utan' programme. She soon became a celebrity, both locally and internationally. She had been featured in over 30 travel films and 'interviewed' by more than 300 writers. In 1992, Ah Meng received a special award from the Singapore Tourism Board in recognition of her contribution towards tourism in Singapore. As an icon of the Singapore Zoo, Ah Meng has met numerous foreign dignitaries and world-renowned celebrities such as Prince Philip, David Copperfield, Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor. Ah Meng also contributed to the Singapore Zoo's captive breeding programme. She had five children and became a grandmother in 1990. As a tribute to her, the next orang utan to be born at the Singapore Zoo shall be named Ah Meng Junior. And to commemorate Ah Meng's efforts towards generating a greater awareness on the plight of orang utans in the wild, the Singapore Zoo will intensify its conservation work for orang utans. The public can see their beloved orang utan for the last time at the Zoo on Sunday, 11am. She will be buried on the same day. Fanny Lai, Group CEO of Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said: "We mourn the passing of Ah Meng. She has touched the hearts of everyone who has met her and contributed immensely in helping to promote awareness of how each and every one of us can play a role in anti-poaching, anti-deforestation and conservation matters. We will miss her dearly." Alagappasamy s/o Chellaiyah, who is also known as Sam, said: "I have taken care of Ah Meng since she first came to the Zoo. Her departure makes me extremely sad and it will take a long while for me to adjust to not having her around. On the other hand, I am very happy that I have had the opportunity to take care of Ah Meng and her family all these years." Ah Meng will certainly be missed by many, including President S R Nathan, who spoke to reporters at the Istana Open House on Friday afternoon. He said: "Ah Meng has been so much of a symbol of the Zoo. A lot of people – locals and foreigners – have enjoyed her company. I'm sure the patrons of the Zoo will miss her a great deal. But that's life." " ------ChannelNewsAsia
The demise of Ah Meng is top news in the local dailies today, with many pages dedicated to this icon of the Singapore Zoo. Such coverages of demises are normally reserved for top politicians, statesman or businessmen, and this led me to wonder whether there would be a grand funeral procession for Ah Meng too, with the other orang utans and animals of the Zoo following behind the hearse. (Just joking, no malice intended).
After the demise of Ah Meng, I ran a check in Google on this iconic animal and there was an interesting (though somehow degrading) article on this favorite primate (see article).......think this article is meant more as a joke.
Comparing with other Orang utans, Ah Meng has led a very meaningful, celebrated life with an "illustrious career", death due to old age is inevitable.
Ah Meng, Ah Men

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