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Miracle Baby Gibbon Rescued at Greensboro Science Center


On April 29, Isabella, the Greensboro Science Center’s (GSC) rare and endangered Javan Gibbon, gave birth to a baby boy. In both the wild and in zoos, it’s not unusual for first-time mother Gibbons to abandon their first child, and that’s exactly what happened to the fragile newborn, who was discovered alone in the Gibbon habitat. Thanks to the expert care of zoo keepers, veterinarians, and the staff of a local hospital, the baby, named Duke, was revived and stabilized. To give Duke the best chance of survival, zoo staffers decided to hand-rear the baby for the next six months until he is self-sustaining, then try to reintroduce him to his parents, Isabella and Leon, in the exhibit.

The compelling story of Duke’s first few hours of life and the days immediately following his discovery are detailed below.



Photo Credit:  Greensboro Science Center


In the early morning of April 29, a zoo keeper discovered a tiny, full-term baby Javan Gibbon lying without its mother inside the Gibbons’ indoor habitat. She immediately wrapped the seemingly lifeless and cold infant into her jacket and ran back to the animal hospital. Slowly, the baby started to warm up and began moving and vocalizing. Keepers held the baby in their arms and up against the body for contact and continuous warmth the first critical hours. Room temperatures were increased to 85 degrees. Once warmed and clinging firmly to a toy Gibbon, Duke was given tiny drops of fluid to rehydrate, then he began taking diluted formula.  Duke gained strength and opened his eyes forcing a crucial decision: Should the staff try to introduce him back to Isabella or not? Knowing that parent rearing is always the best option (though filled with risk given the initial abandonment), the decision was made to introduce Duke back to his parents approximately 30 hours after being found. After some initial nervousness, Isabella grabbed him up in her arms and mother and son were reunited.

Unfortunately, after just 24 hours, it was clear that Duke was weakening and likely not nursing. After much discussion, the decision was made to hand-rear Duke knowing that staff would now need to do everything possible to keep him in visual, vocal and olfactory contact with his parents.

Duke’s condition is stable, and the GSC staff are committed to providing care 24 hours a day for the next six months.  “Nothing in nature is about fairness. It is about survival,” said GSC director Glenn Dobrogosz. “Duke, and hopefully his species, will have a fighting chance thanks to keepers, curators and wildlife biologists who dedicate their lives to preserving and protecting our world’s wild things and wild places.” 

In 2012, GSC was selected by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums to be the second accredited zoo in the U.S. to exhibit and breed Javan Gibbons - one of the rarest Gibbon species on the planet found only on the island of Java in Indonesia. Duke is one of only eight born in zoos across the world and one of three born in North America in the past 12 months.