“Leela” – Siamang Gibbon, born October 11, 2010
Siamangs (Symphalangus syndactylus) are an endangered species of lesser ape found in the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. The newest addition to our siamang family, Leela, was born overnight on October 11, 2010, in the nighthouse at Wortham World of Primates. When first discovered, she was clinging strongly to her mother, Jambi, and was being watched over by her father, Boomer.
The family was kept inside to give the infant the best chance to nurse during the first critical days. Nursing was seen throughout the next few days, and Leela continued to look strong and alert, so they were allowed on exhibit.
Keepers are very observant of the infant’s condition, and may bring the group inside if they see any signs that she is not clinging to her mom well.
Siamangs usually live in family groups of a male and female pair with one or more offspring. The infant usually clings to the belly of the mother during the first several weeks of life, but the father begins to carry it after a few months, and may spend time playing with the infant.
Jambi is a rather unusual siamang mom, and chooses to carry her babies on her leg as often as on her belly (Jambi’s own mother carried her in this fashion). Jambi’s first born, Raya, spent quite a lot of time riding on her foot when she was only a few weeks old, making the zoo staff very nervous. But Raya survived this odd form of maternal care, and became a strong and healthy female. In Leela’s case, Jambi started to carry her on her leg when she was just over 2 weeks old. Jambi is careful not to hurt the infant, despite the awkwardness of the position.
At over one month old, Leela is doing very well and has grown considerably. She is beginning to take more interest in what is going on in the world around her, and has started touching objects that her mom is sitting next to.
Infant care is a long-term commitment in lesser apes, and the young will stay with their parents until they mature. Leela will have many years to grow and learn all there is to know about how to be a siamang.
Photos: Ron Santos, Cheka Kazen, HZI
References: Eastridge, A. 1999. “Symphalangus syndactylus” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Symphalangus_syndactylus.html
Nowak, R. 1999. Walker’s Primates of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
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