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Gibbon Conservation Center Celebrates Birth of Critically Endangered Species

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The Gibbon Conservation Center in southern California just shared with us some photos of a newly-arrived Northern White-cheeked Gibbon! The buff colored gibbon holding the baby is the mother and the dark one is the father. Babies are born with light-colored hair, which will darken with maturity if the gibbon is male.

The center has welcomed six new infants in the last 18 months, a sure sign that the residents are comfortable and well cared-for. The gibbons live in family groups, adults and offspring, giving visitors the opportunity to observe family-oriented behavioral patterns, infant care and development. Though in captivity, these creatures are not tame: they are focused on their families, claiming their territories and on finding the food that is provided for them several times a day. 

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The Gibbon Conservation Center focuses on the study and conservation of gibbons - small apes from the forests of South, East, and Southeast Asia. The center participates in the Species Survival Plan for Northern White-cheeked Gibbons, a captive breeding program that coordinates breeding of genetically diverse individuals between zoos. The Northern White-cheeked Gibbon is now extinct in southern Yunnan, China and is nearly extinct in northern Vietnam, and Critically Endangered in Laos. There are more Northern White-cheeked Gibbons in North American and European zoos than in the wild in China and northern Vietnam, where fewer than 500 are left. This gibbon species is the rarest primate in the wild currently in a successful captive breeding program.

See more photos after the fold!

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All six species of crested gibbons are endangered, with numbers in the wild ranging from 20 Hainan gibbons (the world's rarest primate) to approximately 30,000 buff cheeked gibbons.These small, arboreal apes are considered to be among the world’s greatest acrobats. They can leap distances of 40 feet at speeds of up to 35 mph while 200 feet above the ground. This swinging from branch to branch is called brachiating.

The center currently houses more than 40 gibbons, including 5 of the 17 existing species and representing all 4 genera. The gibbons are fed several times throughout the day, to approximate the food intake rate that would be normal in the wild. Lively and acrobatic, gibbons love to swing at high speeds around their enclosure while singing their territorial songs.