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A royal birthday celebration for Duchess on her 50th at zoo

By Sandy Sand     Mar 30, 2010 in Lifestyle
Hundreds of visitors at the Phoenix Zoo helped Duchess the orangutan celebrate her 50th birthday with a fruit-filled ice cake and several choruses of “Happy Birthday.”
While most human women aren’t all that thrilled with reaching their 50-year milestone, Duchess took it all in stride and didn’t seem stressed out by the event and all the attention, said her keeper, Bob Keesecker.
"I told her it was her birthday today and she didn't seem to be overly concerned about it," he said. "I made sure her hair looked good before she went out."
As for her birthday cake, Keesecker said the birthday girl has “quite a sweet tooth,” and really had to work at getting to the fruit that was frozen into it.
Duchess, a Bornean orangutan, is the oldest living zoo orangutan in the United States, and at 50, is 10 years older than her relatives that live in the wild, zoo officials said. She was two-years-old when the zoo opened 48 years ago, and is one of the few remaining animals that are original residents.
Officials added that she’s had seven babies and now lives with one of her daughters, her daughter’s mate and a grandchild.
Beside a sweet tooth and a love of food, Duchess enjoys painting pictures on canvasses and is her own maid, cleaning her pen with a scrub brush and a bucket of water, Keesecker said.
The weekend birthday celebration included a groundbreaking ceremony for Phoenix Zoo’s new $4 million exhibit for orangutans that will make their living quarters more like what would have in a natural habitat.
The zoo is undergoing an all-over $20 million makeover, which included the newly opened exhibit for Komodo dragons and will be the future home of a Sumatran tiger exhibit.
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