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Baby orang-utan named in tribute to much-loved zookeeper

Paignton Zoo have named their baby orang-utan in tribute to a late zookeeper, who worked at the zoo for almost 50 years.

Brian Baxter was a keeper at Paignton Zoo for 47 years and worked as part of the mammal department for many years before specialising in great apes, including gorillas and orang-utans, in the late 90s. He retired from the zoo in 2017, leaving a lasting mark thanks to his bright personality and passion for wildlife.

When the zoo’s baby Bornean orang-utan was born on 24 October 2022, keepers wanted to make a tribute to Brian, who had passed away just over a month earlier. They decided to name the baby in memory of him, choosing to go with the name ‘Ranbi’ which is an anagram of ‘Brian’.

Anne Lunt, Ape Keeper at Paignton Zoo who worked with Brian for a number of years said:

“Brian played an important role at Paignton Zoo for many years. He saw female orang-utan Chinta arrive at Paignton as a two-year-old from London Zoo, and he was still here when Chinta had her first born, Natalia. As he passed away so recently it seems only fitting that we should honour Brian’s legacy by naming Chinta’s second baby after him.”

Brian Baxter’s family also planted a tree at Paignton Zoo in his memory, co-ordinated by the botanics team, in which Brian’s son works.

Gemma Keohane, Senior Keeper at Paignton Zoo who fondly remembers Brian said:  

“Brian was such a character, always the life and soul of any party and could talk the hind legs off a donkey! In the years I worked with Brian I learnt so much, not just about Paignton Zoo, but about the wider zookeeping world. He loved working with the great apes, and the orang-utans in particular had his heart, so there was no better way to remember Brian than to name our precious new arrival in honour of him. As we celebrate Ranbi’s milestones – his first tooth, his first taste of solid food – we’ll think of Brian. I couldn’t think of a better way to keep our memory of Brian alive.”

You can support baby Ranbi and Paignton Zoo’s vital conservation work by sponsoring an orang-utan.

2008 05 Brian Baxter Head Keeper apes