By Mariam Gorton
What a way to have your lunch, sitting on high ropes clinging to your mum, while an audience watches and coos “Ahh!” and “Aww!” But that’s the way it goes if you are a young, white-cheeked gibbon. The baby gibbon, who is yet to be named, was born on Tuesday, 18th April 2017 at Twycross Zoo in the UK.
Northern White-Cheeked gibbons are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, which means that their population has declined by 80% over the last 45 years due to deforestation and poachers who hunt them for bush meat and medicine, as well as for the pet trade.
Twycross Zoo is very pleased about the birth as it is a crucial step in preserving the species. Zak Showell, the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) coordinator at Twycross Zoo says: “The baby is doing incredibly well and has already been noticed coming off mom somewhat and being very inquisitive. The baby is suckling from its mother and will carry on relying on her milk for around two years. In time it will begin to eat solid food, the same as what its parents eat.”
Twycross Zoo works closely with the Cao Vit gibbon conservation project on the border between northeast Vietnam and southern China to preserve the gibbons in the wild. This includes building a relationship with local people to find better solutions to preserve gibbon’s natural habitat. The zoo boasts a new £2million Gibbon Forest for its gibbons that opened last year, which closely imitates their natural habitat.
Twycross Zoo also participates in the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) that has been incredibly successful in breeding wild animals in captivity. The baby is the fifth offspring of Kampuchea, its mother, and Earl, the father. Last year, Eric and Elliot who are the older brother and sister to the new arrival, went to other zoos around the world to contribute to the breeding programme.
In the future, the zoo hopes that the baby will repeat its parents and siblings mission, perhaps join a mate in a different zoo. But for now, it is to learn the swinging techniques and in between snuggling closely to its mother.