Baby Gibbon’s Birth and “Boo at the Zoo”

“Our big, huge news, is that we’ve got a baby gibbon at the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo,” said Jonathan Miot, Director.

This is the first time the Teaching Zoo has had a baby gibbon in its 40-year existence, and it’s also the first offspring for either Cajun or Eddie, the mom and dad.

“The first three to four months are tricky,” said Miot, explaining how the baby gibbon’s arrival will impact Boo at the Zoo this year, the Teaching Zoo’s annual Halloween event. “Too much stress, too much activity, too much out of the ordinary, and the mom will just reject the baby. She won’t take care of it any more, she won’t produce enough milk, etc.”

Zookeepers haven’t touched the as-yet-unnamed baby and don’t know its sex, and probably won’t for several more months. “Mom is doing a great job of taking care of the baby,” said Miot. Zookepers are continuing the gibbons’ normal routine in every way.

And Boo at the Zoo is definitely not part of the gibbons’ day-to-day routine.

Last year’s event drew 5,877 visitors, who donated 5,671 canned goods to fill area food banks. At this year’s Boo at the Zoo, scheduled for 3-7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 31, zookeepers will still dress in costume, create candy stations, and organize games and activities for trick or treaters, but the staging for the activities will occur in the clearing in front of the zoo instead of inside the zoo. The event is essentially the same, but out of respect for the baby gibbon’s wellbeing, the fun cannot happen near the gibbon enclosure, which is also currently roped off during tours.

“Boo at the Zoo is important to us and to the community, and it’s important to the food banks that depend on it,” Miot said. At the same time, he added, he hopes the public understands just how important it is to protect the wellbeing of the baby gibbon.

Gibbons are members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan because they are endangered in the wild. Populations have declined by 50 percent in the last 45 years due to habitat destruction and hunting.

Gibbons are found in in northern Sumatra (Indonesia), peninsular Malaysia, Myanamar (east of the Salween River), Thailand, and marginally into southern China. They are tree dwellers — living in high canopies — and are monogamous and mate for life. They live in family groups of up to four individuals, but typically live in male-female pairs.

There are currently 101 gibbons in 44 institutions in the United States. All captive gibbons are genetically analyzed to determine the healthiest combinations for breeding pairs in order to keep the gene pool “clean” and avoid inbreeding.

Gibbons can start breeding at age 5 and live into their late 30s or 40s. Adults weigh between 6 to 7 kilograms or 13.2 to 15.4 pounds.

Eddie, who is 29 and came to the Teaching Zoo from the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, is tied for “most valuable male,” meaning “he doesn’t have a lot of relatives in zoos so he is not well represented in the population,” explained Miot. Cajun is 19 and was born at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in Ohio.    

Witnessing the baby gibbon’s development is a bonus for the 130 students enrolled in the Zookeeper Technology Program. There is a waiting list for the program, with no openings for new students until the January 2012 class.

Everyone who attends Boo at the Zoo is invited to dress in costume and bring one canned good per person for admission.

For more information about the gibbon baby or Boo at the Zoo, please contact Zoo Director Jonathan Miot at 352-395-5602 or jonathan.miot@sfcollege.edu.

CONTACT: