Duchess, North America’s Oldest Bornean Orangutan, Dies of Cancer at 52

is reporting that North America’s oldest Borenean orangutan, Duchess, died at the Phoenix Zoo on Sunday after a weeks-long battle with cancer. She was 52.

According to zoo officials, the beloved matriarch orangutan had lived at the Phoenix Zoo since just after it opened in 1962 and survived well beyond the 40-year life expectancy of most orangutans in the wild.

“Although we are deeply saddened by Duchess’s passing, she long surpassed the number of years that orangutans live in zoos and preserves, as well as in the wild,” said Bert Castro, the zoo’s president and CEO, in a news release.

In her last few weeks of life Duchess had been diagnosed with high grade lymphosarcoma, an aggressive form of cancer. Zoo officials say she became weak and lethargic during her final few days and added that the decision to euthanize the orangutan matriarch was to give her some peace and preserve her dignity.

“The cancer was incredibly aggressive and over the past few days, Duchess became increasingly weak and more lethargic,” Gary West, executive vice president of animal health and collections, said in a statement to Reuters. “The veterinary staff, alongside the keepers, made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize her.”

News of Duchess’ death comes just days after Lonseome George, believed to by the world’s last Pinta Giant Tortoise, was found dead in his corral at the Galapagos National Park in Ecuador.

During the course of her 52 years on earth, Duchess gave birth to seven babies. At the time of her death she was living with her daughter Bess, her granddaughter Kasih, and Bess’ mate, Michael.

AZFamily.com reports that a celebration of Duchess’ life will take place at the Phoenix Zoo on Saturday, June 30 from 7am to 2pm.

Until then, animal lovers are encouraged share their memories and thoughts about Duchess on the Zoo’s Facebook page.