A rare baby Gibbon born at Perth Zoo eight weeks ago is thriving thanks to around the clock care by Perth Zoo staff. Weighing just 610 grams (21 oz.) at birth, White-cheeked Gibbon Nakai is being bottle fed and cared for by Zoo staff until he can be reunited with his mother who had difficulties caring for him shortly after the birth. Nakai is being bottle fed baby milk formula nine times a day including night feeds and has almost doubled his birth weight. He now weighs 1050 grams – just over 37 oz.
“The White-cheeked Gibbon is a critically endangered species quite literally on the brink of extinction so Nakai and every single gibbon is precious,” says Holly Thompson, Perth Zoo keeper and one of Nakai’s primary carers.
“Nakai spent the first few weeks of his life in a humidicrib to maintain his body temperature but now sleeps in a warm room with his teddy bear which is his surrogate mother for now.”
“We exercise him daily, stretching his arms and swinging him while he hangs on to help strengthen his arms and encourage natural gibbon behaviour. His upper body strength is really developing now and his overall progress has been amazing.
“Maintaining contact with his family is extremely important so we take him down to visit his mum Viann, father Phillip and six-year-old sister Kit several times a day. Our aim is to get him back with his family in the next few weeks once he has been weaned off his night feeds.”
Perth Zoo is part of a regional breeding program for the critically endangered White-cheeked Gibbon. Nakai is the 8th White-cheeked Gibbon born at Perth Zoo.
In the wild, habitat destruction and poaching, particularly for the illegal pet trade, has had a devastating impact, with White-cheeked Gibbons now facing a very high probability of extinction in the near future. Formerly distributed throughout China, Vietnam and Laos they are now completely extinct in China and virtually extinct in Vietnam with just a few small populations remaining in Laos.
People can help gibbons and other animals by choosing sustainable products particularly sustainably-sourced timber and not encouraging the exploitation of wildlife by paying to have their picture taken with endangered species when holidaying in these regions.
Perth Zoo’s two White-cheeked Gibbon groups can be seen in the Asian Rainforest zone.