Baby gibbon gets into the swing of things

July 5, 2011

On Tuesday, visitors jammed the zoo, especially the primate house where an exhibit starring Sai, a beautiful little male ape born six months ago.

"A lot has happened. He's already starting to move away from mom. A little bit further, three or four feet, and he's starting to figure out how to swing, which, being a gibbon, is pretty important," said Maureen Leahy, curator of primates, Lincoln Park Zoo.

In the Burmese language, Sai means son and at Lincoln Park Zoo they didn't know if he was male or female until he was three months old. He was clinging so tightly to his mom Burma. ABC7 shot video when Sai was just one day old and he was mama's little boy. There was no chance he would ever leave the comfort of here soft fur. But now he has started to break away and in the last several days Sai has started to swing.

Fish don't have to learn how to swim, they just do it automatically but the gibbon, which is the greatest acrobat in the jungle, actually has to learn how to swing.

"They have to learn that every branch might not hold their weight. So some branches could give way, they need to know if the vine is going to swing so they can hold on tighter," said Leahy.

Within six months or so Sai will be swinging like his dad Caruso. But for now, he's just like us. But instead of baby steps, it's baby swings.

"Gibbons in the wild are not going to learn how to walk first, they're going to learn how to swing first because they live way up high in the tree canopy," said Leahy.

For now Sai is brown like his mom, but in a year he will be black like his dad and he will stay that way.

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