Rajang the orangutan from Colchester Zoo celebrates 50th birthday

The part Bornean, part Sumatran orangutan likes to clean his enclosure with his keepers Picture: DAV

The part Bornean, part Sumatran orangutan likes to clean his enclosure with his keepers Picture: DAVID MARSAY - Credit: DAVID MARSAY

One of Colchester Zoo’s most beloved animals is celebrating a very special birthday today.

Rajang is a hugely popular personality at the zoo Picture: DAVID MARSAY

Rajang is a hugely popular personality at the zoo Picture: DAVID MARSAY - Credit: DAVID MARSAY

Rajang the orangutan, who loves eating fruit and has a soft spot for blackcurrant juice, will be spoiled rotten by his keepers as he turns 50 years old.

Born at Chester Zoo on June 14, 1968, Rajang was hand-reared after the death of his mother and moved to Colchester in 1980.

Known for his incredibly engaging personality, Rajang is a hybrid, meaning he is a part Bornean, part Sumatran orangutan.

As a close cousin of modern day man, orangutans are typically very intelligent - and able to imitate human behaviour.

Born at Chester Zoo on June 14, 1968, Rajang was hand-reared by keepers after the death of his mothe

Born at Chester Zoo on June 14, 1968, Rajang was hand-reared by keepers after the death of his mother Picture: DANIEL PETTITT - Credit: DANIEL PETTITT

Rajang has been known to join in with his keepers – cleaning the windows of his enclosure with a cloth and a bucket of water, as well as lending the gardeners a hand by learning to pot and plant leafy twigs and thin branches.

Rajang lives in the zoo’s Orangutan Forest, which was opened in April 2009 following an investment of £1.75million and four years of development.

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The exhibit also features a selection of Asian fish and reptiles including a species of fresh water turtle, the Asian giant pond turtle.

Curator Clive Barwick said: “Rajang, is Colchester Zoo. In many ways he represents part of our history and development and he’s been here with us to experience it first-hand. He is also recognised by many as an ambassador for the zoo and indirectly for his wild living counterparts too, as they struggle for existence in their native habitat in Borneo and Sumatra.”

As an extra special present to the zoo’s beloved orangutan, artist Natalie Mascall is creating a pai

As an extra special present to the zoos beloved orangutan, artist Natalie Mascall is creating a painting in commeration of his big day Picture: SCOTT DAVEY - Credit: SCOTT DAVEY

As an extra special present to the zoo’s beloved orangutan, artist Natalie Mascall is creating a painting in commeration of his big day.

The lifelike portrait of Rajang will be sold as part of a silent auction and the lucky winning bidder will claim the finished piece, with proceeds going towards Colchester Zoo’s charity Action for the Wild and the orangutan projects which it supports.

Orangutans are extremely endangered in the wild – largely because their rainforest home is being cut down to make way for palm oil plantations. This is causing severe habitat loss, which has resulted in the dramatic depletion in orangutan numbers.

Colchester Zoo will be running a series of birthday activities throughout the day – plus this weekend – including extra special birthday encounters, ‘Orangutan W.O.W stations’ designed to raise awareness of the critically endangered species, and a trail to complete – with the chance to win an adoption of Rajang. The zoo is also offering 50% off child entry tickets both today and throughout the weekend.

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