Southern Gazette (Victoria Park) - - Lifestyle -

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.

Pic­ture: Jon Hew­son

Owa the Ja­van gib­bon.

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