One of Colchester Zoo's most loved residents has died at the grand old age of 50.

Rajang the Orangutan, who has called the Maldon Road attraction his home since 1980, had to be put to sleep due to worsening health.

Over his time at the zoo, visitors and staff alike fell in love with the great ape, who was receiving treatment for chronic arthritis and several other conditions by the time of his death.

A spokesman for Colchester Zoo said on Facebook: "We all knew that one day this day would come as Rajang became older that it would be very hard however, nothing can ever prepare you for the emotions you feel after the passing of a loved one who you have known for almost all their life and in some cases in throughout all of our own lives.

"Rajang had a very special bond with his keepers, some of whom he had known for the majority of his adult life, a bond that is irreplaceable and one which will never be forgotten."

The spokesman added: "All the animals in our care have their individual personalities which we all fall in love with but Rajang was one of a kind with a personality so unique, fascinating, loving and interesting.

"Rajang always had a twinkle in his eye and despite Orangutans not having the same facial muscles to express their emotions the way in which humans do, Rajang communicated with his keepers and visitors through his beautiful eyes and expressions he would make with his mouth."

In the latter stages of his long and happy life, the orangutan became a star of social media, with videos of him kissing visitors' baby bumps going viral online.

The zoo said it wants to share its many happy memories of Rajang, and they will be renaming the Orangutan Forest attraction to include his name.

The spokesman continued: "The gardens by All Saints Church, which is sited next to Rajang’s home, will also be dedicated to him with a timeline of Rajang’s life for all to read and reminisce.

"Rajang has been one of the most amazing ambassadors for his species which is so vitally important especially right now with the effect of deforestation which is reducing the number of orangutans in the wild.

"Colchester Zoo’s charity Action for the Wild already raises funds and supports Orangutan Appeal UK and the Orangutan Foundation but in loving memory of Rajang we would like to appeal for further support for his cousins in the wild."

In June, the zoo held a special celebration for Rajang's milestone 50th birthday and an artist was commissioned to draw a limited-edition portrait of the animal.

A limited number of prints will go on sale in the coming days.

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One of Colchester Zoo's most popular residents, orangutan Rajang, had to be put to sleep at the age of 50. We want to see your images and hear your memories of Rajang from his time at the zoo.

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