Baby gibbon getting lots of attention

January 11, 2011 5:29:06 PM PST
Gibbons love to fly through the air on vines and ropes. There is a lot of that going on at Lincoln Park Zoo, thanks to a brand new baby.

A visit to Lincoln Park Zoo's primate house these days gives you a baby bonus. In the gibbon exhibit there's a brand new infant born just five days ago. Sometimes you have to be patient to see the little ape, but hang in there and your chances are good.

"We're excited, we have a new baby gibbon born here last Thursday," said primate house curator Maureen Leahy. "We won't know (the sex) for awhile. Mom is holding onto the baby really tight and the baby's clinging very tightly."

The mom's name is "Burma" and this is her third baby along with the father "Caruso".

In zoos, the gibbon population is slowly growing, but in the wild they are critically endangered.

"It's believed that over the last 40 or 50 years that about 80 percent of the population has declined in the wild in southeast Asia," said Leahy. "Mostly to hunting and habitat loss."

Experts say that a gibbon in the wild might not ever touch the ground, living its entire life in the treetops. They are born there and grow up there.

And they are small apes, not monkeys.

"These guys are actually considered apes because they don't have tails and monkeys do," said Leahy. "It's as easy as that."

The mother, Burma, is tan, and so is the baby. But, the father Caruso is black, and then what's really amazing is that over the years the color of the baby's fur will change.

"When they're about 2 years old all infants start to turn black. But what's even more interesting is when they age and become adults, the males will remain black but the females revert back to the original golden tan color," Leahy said.

The yet-to-be-named 1-pound baby will hang close to mom for about two years and could spend its entire life at Lincoln Park Zoo.