Tasmania Zoo received two very adorable Christmas presents this year: two critically endangered white-cheeked gibbons.
Nhu and Tiane come from Adelaide Zoo, and are a bonded pair – although they’re too young for the breeding the zoo hopes to accomplish just yet.
They arrived last week, but zoo staff are already besotted with them.
“They’re very quirky,” said keeper Bridie Slattery.
“They’ve only been here a short amount of time but we’ve fallen absolutely in love with them.”
The pair have taken to their new home without a hitch.
Keepers were warned that they may hold off on making their usual morning territorial calls, or the soft grunting sound that indicates contentment, for a week or so as they adjust to their new surroundings.
However, that hasn’t happened, and the pair have been adventurous and playful almost from day one.
These two were born in captivity, but white-cheeked gibbons are native to Vietnam and Laos.
“They are critically endangered due to habitat destruction for agricultural purposes – also for bush meat or the pet trade, ” said Ms Slattery.
“When you do go to South-East Asia in the tourist areas and you get to have a photo with a gibbon, usually that’s a poached baby.
“Although there are good zoos in Asia that do house them appropriately and have programs similar to us.”
The gibbons eat fruit, leaves, and insects. In the wild they sometimes hunt small mammals.
They are social creatures who groom each other as a bonding behaviour. Similar to humans, young ones are energetic, cheeky and playful, and adults tend to be more sedate.
All female white-cheeked gibbons are white, and males are black.
They are likely to live into their late twenties or thirties – some of this species have even been recorded living into their forties.
So zoo patrons have plenty of time to come and see them – but Ms Slattery recommends stopping by as soon as you can.
“Come and see them, come and learn about them … they’re amazing,” she said.
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