The Singapore Zoo has just unveiled its new queen of attractions – another Ah Meng.
For those of you who remember, Ah Meng was a female Sumatran Orangutan and a tourism icon of Singapore. She was smuggled from Indonesia and kept illegally as a domestic pet before being recovered by a veterinarian in 1971. She was then eleven years old and was given a home at the Singapore Zoo.
This is how Wikipedia describes Ah Meng’s celebrity life:
“Ah Meng was the poster girl of the Singapore Zoo. Pictures of her have been used in Singapore’s tourism advertisements worldwide. She has also been featured in over 30 travel films and more than 300 articles. Some of the foreign dignitaries and celebrities that visited Ah Meng included Prince Philip and Michael Jackson.
Due to her early years being raised by a family, Ah Meng was more approachable by humans than other primates in her clan. Due to her interactive nature, she was the first to host the Zoo’s ‘Breakfast With Ah Meng’ programme, whereby visitors would eat their morning meal and then have a photograph taken with the orangutan. By allowing visitors to interact closely with Ah Meng and other orangutans, the Singapore Zoo aims to raise public awareness of the importance of preserving the orangutan’s natural habitat as well as of other environmental issues.
In 1992, the Singapore Tourism Promotion Board conferred Ah Meng a “Special Tourism Ambassador” award in recognition of her contribution to tourism in Singapore. She was the first non-human recipient of the award. She received a certificate and a stack of bananas.”
Ah Meng died on 8 February 2008. She was 48 years old when she died, and was survived by 2 sons, 3 daughters and 6 grandkids. The Singapore Zoo held a memorial for Ah Meng on 10 February 2008, which was attended by 4000 visitors.
The Zoo in unveiling a bronze statue in memory of her, promised to name the next Orangutan born in its Sumatran Orangutan exhibit as Ah Meng junior.The Singapore Zoo however has had a re-think on who should be the next ‘Ah Meng’. They have decided that one of Ah Meng’s grand-daughter’s, Ishta, would be the ONE – and she will be referred to as ‘Ah Meng’ henceforth.
It may be technically correct to call the five-year-old Ishta, ‘Ah Meng’. She is Ms Ah Meng after all.
In the ‘Ah Meng’ unveiling ceremony held at the zoo today, one Orangutan seemed to be interested in something other than the limelight.