ZOO KEEPERS GIBBON SOME GOOD NEWS
A HAND-RAISED Javan gibbon born at Perth Zoo has celebrated his first birthday.
Owa (gibbon in Indonesian) was born on June 20 last year to 31-year-old mother Hecla.
The birth was considered a great success for the critically endangered breed, but six days after Owa was born, Hecla was not able to produce enough milk to sustain him.
Zoo keepers had to take on the parenting role and hand-raise him.
Primate supervisor Holly Thompson said keepers tried not to intervene but with such a critically endangered species, every effort was made to ensure survival.
“It is difficult to rear a primate and introduce it back to its family,” she said.
“But Perth Zoo has successfully reared and re-introduced gibbons back to their family group.
“We are considered experts at this and often called upon to consult to other zoos throughout the world.
“Owa’s done exceptionally well – he’s reached all the milestones we wanted him to – and he was successfully re-introduced to his family in December last year.”
Owa, who weighed 500 grams at birth, initially required around the clock care, including 12 bottle feeds a day.
His keepers had to go to the extra length of covering their faces so he would not get too attached and could bond with his family through daily visits.
Ms Thompson said it was a great sense of achievement to see Owa doing so well with Hecla and his four-year-old sister Sunda, especially because his breed was in serious decline.
“There are about only 2000 Javan gibbons left in the wild,” she said.
“What it now comes down to is preserving what is left.”
Owa, who was Hecla’s tenth offspring, will hopefully go on to form a breeding pair when he becomes about eight years old.
Hecla and her mate Jury were considered the world’s most successful known breeding pair of Javan gibbons.
This year is the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Year of the Gibbon. The Species Survival Commission initiative focuses on awareness for gibbon conservation efforts, including combating the illegal pet trade and habitat destruction.
Owa the Javan gibbon.