World’s oldest orangutan died in Tokyo

1 May

In 1955, 上野動物園 (Ueno Zoo) in Tokyo was given a three-year-old オランウータン (orangutan) named 「モリー」 (“Molly“).

We first saw her at that zoo in the ’90s, when Molly was in her forties. For an orangutan, that age is already elderly.
By the time we first saw Molly she had gone blind in her left eye and she had to use her hand to hold her right eye open in order to see.

My family and I really liked Molly and we visited her every time that we went to the zoo.

But then in 2005 when we went to Ueno Zoo, we were sad to find that Molly‘s cage was empty. As Molly was quite old for an orangutan at that point, we suspected the worst and thought that she had passed away…until we noticed a sign that said Molly had been transferred to 「多摩動物公園」 (“Tama Zoo”).

Tama Zoo is also in Tokyo but it’s in rural western Tokyo where there’s more room, so Tama Zoo is much larger that metropolitan Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo.

We hadn’t been to Tama Zoo for awhile and we like that zoo a lot. So during 2005’s Golden Week (which, coincidentally, is the week-long holiday period in Japan that happens to started two days ago) we went to Tama Zoo and saw Molly looking happy in the zoo’s large orangutan enclosure.

Well, it was announced in the news that Molly, who was the world’s oldest orangutan, died yesterday (2011 March 30) from old age (she was 59 years and 4 months old).

Rest in peace, Molly.

Here are some photos that I took of her at Tama Zoo in May 2005:

A visitor to my site named Jean Adams emailed me this wonderful picture of Molly that she drew after seeing a photo of Molly in her local newspaper in England:

Since Molly has passed away, now the current oldest orangutan in the world is now a 57 year old female named “Gypsy” who also lives at Tama Zoo in Tokyo.
She likes to look through fashion magazines! 🙂

13 Responses to “World’s oldest orangutan died in Tokyo”

  1. Jean Adams July 4, 2011 at 1:57 am #

    Thank you for putting Molly’s drawing on this site.

    If anyone would like to purchase a print of my drawing please click here.



    • tokyo5 July 4, 2011 at 11:37 pm #

      >Thank you for putting Molly’s drawing on this site.

      Sure. It’s a quite nice picture.


  2. Jean Adams July 1, 2011 at 5:38 am #

    Hi,would you like to see my drawing of Molly,please let me know and will e-mail it to you.Jean


    • tokyo5 July 2, 2011 at 12:29 am #

      Did you see Molly while she was alive?

      Did you draw her picture? Yes, I’d like to see it.

      You can email me with this form.


    • tokyo5 July 4, 2011 at 1:13 am #

      >my drawing of Molly

      I received the email you sent me with your picture of Molly…and, with your permission, I added the photo of your artwork to this post.


  3. Hiroshi Ohira May 27, 2011 at 9:24 pm #

    tokyo5, yes, it could be Molly, but it could be transformed from もり to モリー, but that’s my very wild guess…

    The farewell talk show is held on June 11, 13:30-14:30, in the “Watching Center” at Tama Zoo (The Watching Center is just a minute’s walk from the main gate). A talk will be given by a keeper, and tribute flowers will be prepared (Is it a Japanese way?).


    • tokyo5 May 27, 2011 at 10:43 pm #

      From 1:30 – 2:30PM on 2011 June 11. OK, thanks.

      And, yes, that type of ceremony is very “Japanese”.


  4. Hiroshi Ohira May 26, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

    Hi, tokyo5,

    Thank you for posting the news of Mori. (Remember me? I posted a comment a few months ago about the zoo photos.)

    Although working for Tokyo zoos, I didn’t know why she was named Mori. I found an article about Mori in our zoo magazine published in 1956, which says they named her Mori, but with no explanations.

    I spelled “Mori” because I don’t know the name is a western one, or a Japanese word (Mori in Japanese means “forest” and “utan” of “orang utan” also means “forest” in Indonesian).

    My office is located near the Mori’s house when she was at Ueno Zoo. Every time I saw her (or when she stared at me), I get a feeling of awe.

    June 11, Tama Zoo holds an farewell talk show. The keepers will talk about memories of Mori.


    • tokyo5 May 27, 2011 at 12:46 am #

      >Remember me? I posted a comment a few months ago about the zoo photos.

      Of course. You’re first comment on my site was here.

      >I spelled “Mori” because I don’t know (whether) the name is a western one or a Japanese word

      In Japanese, here name is written as 「モリー」, not 「もり」…so that would mean it’s the western name “Molly“.

      >June 11, Tama Zoo holds an farewell talk show. The keepers will talk about memories of Mori.

      Thank you for telling me about it. What time will it be at?


  5. musings May 2, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    I wonder what gives the orangutans their longevity in Japan. They must be well cared for.


    • tokyo5 May 2, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

      >They must be well cared for.

      Yeah, that’s probably why they live so long.


  6. gigihawaii May 1, 2011 at 8:38 am #

    Molly is an English name. Was it an English speaking country that gave her to Japan? Rest in peace, Molly.


    • tokyo5 May 1, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

      I can’t believe I didn’t write it in this post…

      Molly came to Tokyo from Indonesia (where the endangered orangutan is native to).

      I’m not sure who named her…but usually when a zoo in Japan receives a new animal, the Japanese public are invited to vote on it’s name.


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