For the first time in its history, the Akron Zoo has welcomed a white-cheeked gibbon baby. The zoo’s female gibbon, Parker, gave birth on Thursday, Dec. 9 around 9 p.m. The baby is doing well. The gibbon family will make their debut in the zoo’s indoor habitat on Saturday, Dec. 18.
The baby’s gender is unknown at this time. Infant gibbons will hold on to their mothers from the time of birth. Parker is attentive towards the baby and zoo staff is hands-off. The zoo plans to announce a naming contest at a later date.
White-cheeked gibbons, a lesser ape species, made their debut at the Akron Zoo in May 2021 when the zoo opened its new area, Lehner Family Foundation Wild Asia. The gibbon pair, Parker and male Milo, arrived to the zoo as a bonded pair from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado in late 2020.
The Akron Zoo announced Parker’s pregnancy in August 2021. This baby is the first for the gibbon pair. The baby’s father, Milo, does assist with the rearing of the baby and is in the gibbon habitat with both mom and baby.
White-cheeked gibbons are native to Southeast Asia. The species is listed as critically endangered by IUCN Red List due to habitat loss, mainly from deforestation to create palm oil plantations. The native population of white-cheeked gibbons has decreased about 80% in the last 45 years.
“We are thrilled to welcome this baby gibbon into our Akron Zoo family,” said Doug Piekarz, president & CEO. “This baby is very important and it’s a major step forward for this critically endangered species. I am proud of the hard work and dedication of the gibbon care team throughout Parker’s pregnancy. The baby is the best kind of holiday gift for us at the Akron Zoo.”
The Akron Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The zoo participates in the Gibbon Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is a scientifically managed breeding program that works to ensure a healthy, genetically diverse population of white-cheeked gibbons.
The zoo has partnered with Pu Mat National Park in Vietnam. The park is home to one of the largest populations of gibbons in the world. The Akron Zoo was the first zoo in North America to enter the partnership, in which scientist monitor the behavior of gibbons. The goal of the partnership is to protect white-cheeked gibbons from extinction.