After almost seven months of being gibbon-less, Oakland Zoo has welcomed two white-handed gibbons, 8-year-old Mei and her new mate, 5-year-old Rainer.
The zoo’s lone (and lonely) white-handed gibbon, Nikko, was transferred to Santa Barbara Zoo in late November to pair him with a potential mate and provide him with company, two things he’d been lacking since his mate died. Sadly, Nikko died shortly after arriving in Santa Barbara from an undetected ailment, suspected to be neoplasia cancer.
Mei arrived in Oakland from Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska. Her troop was having social conflicts that necessitated Mei’s separation. Rainer came to Oakland from Santa Fe College Training Zoo in Gainsville, Florida. He is at the perfect age to leave his troop and start one of his own, which is what Oakland Zoo officials hope will eventually happen.
Mei and Rainer were matched as a good breeding pair, but the veterinary staff is administering birth control for now so that the two can focus on bonding and adjusting to their new home.
The gibbons, however, seem well on their way to making a lovely union.
Veterinary staff report that Mei and Rainer got along very well upon their first introduction, and quickly began singing duets together several times a day.
Gibbons mate for life and once bonded, sing duets to demonstrate their bond. They also sing to declare their territory, so zoo staff take that as an indication they’ve accepted their new home on the zoo’s Gibbon Island.
“We are very excited to have gibbons back at Oakland Zoo,” Oakland Zoo animal keeper Andrea Dougall said. “The keepers have been working extra hard getting everything ready so that we can provide the best possible care for them as they get to know each other and get to know their new home. The keepers and the gibbons have done a fabulous job and all are doing very well.”
Gibbons are native to the tropical forests struggling with large-scale deforestation, primarily caused by palm oil producers clearing large stretches of land for massive plantations. Oakland Zoo plans to present the gibbons as ambassadors for the palm oil crisis.
“This popular oil is used in many of our everyday products, making the choice ours,” Amy Gotliffe, Oakland Zoo’s director of conservation, said.
To assist gibbons in the wild and other animals whose homes are threatened, conservationists ask that we avoid palm oil products or purchase from companies that are part of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, an industry nonprofit working to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil.
Oakland Zoo visitors can see Mei and Rainer in their habitat during the zoo’s regular hours, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekends and holidays. Members get in 30 minutes early. The zoo is at 9777 Golf Links Road in Oakland; www.oaklandzoo.org.
Gibbons return to the Oakland Zoo at last