Singapore Zoo unveils iconic orangutan's granddaughter as the new Ah Meng
Ah Meng's granddaughter takes on her name and iconic role
Four-year-old Ishta has a great name to live up to.
Presented to the media at a press conference at the Singapore Zoo yesterday, the Sumatran orang utan will be renamed Ah Meng and succeed her late grandmother as the zoo's icon.
The original Ah Meng died in 2008 of old age. She was 48. (See other report.)
Ishta is the daughter of Sayang, Ah Meng's third daughter who died when Ishta was 11 months old.
She was then brought up by her cousin, Chomel.
Ishta was chosen over Chomel, another hot contender for the role of Ah Meng, for her friendly and docile personality that is similar to her grandmother's, said the head keeper of orang utans, Mr Kumaran Sesshe.
Mr Kumaran, who has 16 years of experience in caring for orang utans, said: " It was a long process selecting Ishta as the new Ah Meng.
"The new Ah Meng needs to have certain personality traits that her grandmother had, such as being humble and tolerant."
He added: "Ishta is very tolerant. When her peers pull her fur, she doesn't show signs of aggression and this is the most important consideration when selecting an ambassador for the zoo."
And just like her grandmother, the new Ah Meng has displayed her love for cleanliness too.
Visitors can visit her at the zoo's free-ranging orang utan habitat and at selected photography sessions.
Four times a week, visitors can watch her swing in her habitat while having a meal during the Jungle Breakfast With Wildlife programme.
Mr Mike Barclay, chief executive officer of Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said: "We took eight years to choose our new icon out of respect for Ah Meng.
"And it's also out of respect that we bring back Ah Meng's name as she was a great conservation icon."
Mr Kumaran said positive reinforcement will be used to get the orang utan to respond to her new name.
Her first official duty as queen of the jungle will start this morning, when she flags off the zoo's annual Safari Zoo Run that started in 2009 in memory of her grandmother.
Ah Meng: A National Icon
Ah Meng became a national icon when she starred in the Singapore Zoo's Breakfast With An Orang Utan programme, which started in 1982 and allowed visitors to take photos with her.
She met celebrities like Michael Jackson and was the first non-human to receive the Special Tourism Ambassador award in 1992.
Addressing the media at a press briefing yesterday, Ah Meng's caretaker of 36 years, Mr Alagappasamy Chellaiyah, said: "More than 4,000 people turned up during Ah Meng's funeral and they were hugging me, telling me that they were sorry.
"I'm sure that Ah Meng would be very proud today," he said before breaking off in tears.