News & Media
DUCHESS TURNS 50!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Trish Chambers Bump
Director of Marketing and Corporate Relations
DUCHESS TURNS 50:
Phoenix Zoo to honor orangutan matriarch with public birthday celebration
and groundbreaking of new state-of-the art exhibit
PHOENIX (March 22, 2010) – With a name like Duchess, it’s fitting to throw a party of royal proportions. So in honor of the 50 year-old Bornean orangutan, the Phoenix Zoo will hold an all-day celebration complete with cake, presents, an open guest list, and activities for all ages. The festivities will take place this Saturday, March 27 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the current orangutan exhibit. In lieu of gifts, guests may make a donation to help build the new orangutan habitat, part of the Zoo’s $20 million Capital Campaign. The groundbreaking for this new state-of-the art exhibit will take place during Duchess’ birthday celebration.
Duchess is one of only a few remaining original inhabitants of the Phoenix Zoo. Just two years old at the Zoo’s opening in November 1962, she has now surpassed by a decade the typical 40-year life expectancy of orangutans in the wild. In fact, she is the nation’s oldest captive Bornean orangutan, and shows no signs of slowing down. Caring for Duchess has become a ritual for the Zoo’s keepers, who lovingly provide a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables, plus behavioral enrichment activities and fresh bedding every day. Duchess has given birth seven times over a 23-year span, the first in 1971 and the last in 1994. She currently shares her habitat with daughter Bess, four year-old granddaughter Kasih, and Kasih’s father, Michael.
The first 500 guests at Duchess’ birthday party will receive a cupcake courtesy of Fry’s Food Stores. Duchess and her orangutan family will also enjoy a special birthday “cake” and they will open presents for all to view. Guests will have the opportunity to sign a giant birthday card and sing “Happy Birthday” with the crowd at 12 noon and 5 p.m. In addition to the festivities, Duchess’ keepers will talk about her history and care, and guests can learn about her legacy as a founder of the Bornean Orangutan Species Survival Plan. The exhibit will show threats facing wild orangutans and the conservation projects supported by the Zoo to help them.
The highlight of the celebration will take place at 10:30 a.m. with the groundbreaking of the new orangutan habitat. Entitled Orang-Hutan: “People of the Forest”, the new exhibit will provide a more naturalistic environment for Duchess and her family. With modern amenities and a larger area to explore, the Zoo will have the opportunity to add more orangutans in the future.
“I can’t think of a better way to honor Duchess than with a brand new home, ” says Phoenix Zoo President & CEO Bert Castro. “We at the Phoenix Zoo feel a strong commitment to conserving Bornean orangutans, whose population has declined by 50% in the last 60 years. The new exhibit will help further our cause by allowing us to improve care and provide more realistic, enjoyable living conditions for our current and future orangutans.”
The $4 million dollar orangutan exhibit is one of the projects slated for completion under the Zoo’s $20 million Capital Campaign to create a “World Class Zoo for a World Class City”. The Capital Campaign has already provided funding for the recently opened Komodo dragon exhibit, Land of the Dragons. Future projects include a new Sumatran tiger exhibit, entry oasis, volunteer and staff headquarters, and the lake-overlook event and education facility.
“We are extremely grateful for the donations we have received to make these improvements possible, and I’m sure Duchess will be too, ” says Castro. “Her birthday celebrates a milestone on our quest to transform the Zoo for the 21st century. There is still much more work to be done to create a world class destination for Phoenix, but we look forward to celebrating each new phase with our guests and supporters.”
The orangutan exhibit is being constructed by Phoenix-based general contractor D.L. Withers Construction.
About the Phoenix Zoo
The Phoenix Zoo is a non-profit zoological park that serves 1.5 million guests annually. Home to more than 1, 300 animals and many endangered and threatened species, the Zoo is dedicated to providing experiences that inspire people and motivate them to care for the natural world.