THE face of the Singapore Zoo and once a tourism ambassador for Singapore, orang utan Ah Meng will be 'irreplaceable'.
Said Ms Fanny Lai, executive director of the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari: 'We have her granddaughter Chomel, who is as pretty as her, but she is nothing like Ah Meng.
'In order to perpetuate her legacy, we will name the next orang utan born Ah Meng Junior. That should happen in about six months.'
A website link at www.zoo.com.sg has been set up to allow visitors to post tributes and pictures of Ah Meng.
Besides mingling with celebrities and entertaining visitors to the zoo, Ah Meng has helped to spread the message of wildlife conservation, especially that of orang utans, and the zoo will continue to use her name to do so.
Sumatran orang utans, in particular, are considered critically endangered, with only about 7,500 of them left in the wild.
Since Ah Meng retired from public appearances a few years ago, the popular Breakfast with Ah Meng, where visitors could share a meal and take photographs with her, had been extended to include other animals.
Renamed Breakfast with Wildlife, it features snakes and elephants, along with orang utans.
But who will be the next zoo icon?
Zoo officials say Ah Meng could never be replaced, but among the more popular attractions are Inuka, the 17-year-old polar bear who was born in Singapore, and Chawang, the 31-year-old Asian bull elephant at the Night Safari.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Feb 11, 2008.