Apes form unusual bond at Brookfield Zoo

Thani, a 3-year-old white-cheeked gibbon at Brookfield Zoo recently met Kekasih, a 4-year-old orangutan, while exploring more of the zoo's Tropic World Asia exhibit. Guests may occasionally see Thani jump from the high trees in the indoor habitat to the large peninsula to visit his new friend. ( Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society)

February 5, 2013 3:48:25 PM PST
Kekasih, a 4-year-old orangutan, has a new friend. Thani, 3, is a white-cheeked gibbon. Both apes live in Tropic World Asia at Brookfield Zoo, and their friendship is blossoming.

"All of a sudden Thani decided, about six weeks ago, to jump over to orangutan peninsula and visit Kekasih," Craig Demitros, Brookfield Zoo associate curator of primates, said.

Thani doesn't spend his whole day visiting his red-haired friend; he spends most of his time with his family. But Kekasih? Well, she spends many anxious moments apparently pining away for her new friend.

After about an hour wait, Thani popped up out of nowhere. At first, the two sized each other up. They didn't make much contact. But now, after several weeks, the two apes have become swinging huggers.

"That's basically play behavior," Demitros said. "Sort of play wrestling, arm wrestling, leg wrestling."

While there are reports of other different species of apes having play-dates, it's not something that happens in the wild: the gibbon ape is from Southeast Asia; the orangutans are from Borneo.