Sports and Outdoors

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rare gibbon born at Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

A rare baby Javan gibbon born at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo on March 14 is making its public debut this week. The baby’s parents are the only pair of Javan gibbons to be exhibited in an accredited United States zoo. The baby, a male, is named Jaka, which means “young man” in an Indonesian language.

Javan gibbons are small, gray-furred apes found only on the island of Java in Indonesia, where they are critically endangered.

“This birth is significant for the future of Javan gibbons,” says zoo animal curator Mark Weldon. “Only two Javan gibbons were born in captivity worldwide in the last year.”

The Fort Wayne Children's Zoo was chosen to be part of an international consortium working to establish Javan gibbons in captivity. Because of the gibbons’ precarious status in the wild, conservation groups and zoos are establishing a captive population in case the wild population would collapse.

“By studying the reproductive behavior and genetics of captive Javan gibbons, we can learn things that will help the wild population as well,” Weldon says.

The baby’s parents, Lionel (male) and Dieng (female) arrived at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo in August 2010. Lionel came to Fort Wayne from the Gibbon Conservation Center in California, while Dieng came from the Belfast Zoo in Northern Ireland.

“So far, Dieng is being a good mother,” says Weldon. Young gibbons stay with their parents for up to seven years.

The Javan gibbons are exhibited along the Tree Tops Trail Boardwalk in the zoo’s Indonesian Rain Forest.

Found only on the island of Java in Indonesia, the endangered Javan gibbon is under intense pressure from the island’s burgeoning human population. Java is home to more than 130 million people – that’s about half the population of the entire United States – jammed onto an island roughly the size of North Carolina. Only about 4,000 Javan gibbons remain in tiny patches of rain forest on the island.

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