A few weeks ago, the Gibbon Conservation Center held its annual Breakfast with the Gibbons event.
Residents of the Santa Clarita Valley were invited to spend their Saturday morning at the center, which is located in Saugus right off Bouquet Canyon.
The Gibbon Conservation center is home to five of the 19 living species of gibbons, and hosts all four known genera of gibbons.
The primates are considered apes; distinct from monkeys because gibbons have no tail and lengthy arms, but many primatologists considerer them to be “lesser apes” due to their smaller size, which is an average of 20 pounds.
But visitors didn’t seem to be too concerned with them being “lesser” as they ate alongside and admired the gibbons from a distance while on guided tours.
Families and students appreciated interacting and learning from a relative only separated by a few million years of evolution.
“It’s a win-win,” said current COC student Kohlton. “ I get extra credit for my anthropology class and I get to enjoy the day.”
Proceeds from admission prices and the event’s auction are going to help with the everyday responsibilities for maintaining the center, which happens to be the only gibbon conservation center in the United States.
“All the species of gibbons are in danger and some are in critically in danger,” said Gabriella Skollar, the director of the gibbon’s center. “One species of gibbons are down to only 25 left in the wild; the Hainan gibbon.”
While it may be the only gibbon conservation center in the US, it also works with zoos, sanctuaries, and other organizations to help maintain a growing population.
The center’s primary focus is to be a central location for non-invasive gibbon studies, but with the dwindling numbers of gibbons in the wild as a result of a diminishing habitat in Southeast Asia and illegal poaching, the center must allow captive breeding.
While in captivity, the gibbons are able to reproduce more (around 2-3 times a year instead of 4-5 years in the wild) due to a less stressful environment and a more nutritional diet.
What the gibbons eat for breakfast tends to differ slightly from what visitors enjoyed on the day of the event.
The center feeds the gibbons eight times a day to a re-create the similar setting of foraging that gibbons engage in throughout the wild.
The first meal that the gibbons are exposed to at the beginning of the day consists of green beans, nuts or eggs, and a processed protein feed known as monkey chow.
It’s also not unusual for the gibbons to be able to catch and eat birds because of their 35mph speeds and their 20-25 foot leap.
However, their athletic ability is no match for their singing capabilities.
Guests were treated to one of the many gibbon songs for almost 20 minutes, where all it takes is for just one ape to let out yell for territory to provoke other gibbons to sing in unison towards the initial call.
The song was a favorite amongst most guests and even the main reason why many of the staff members and scientists at the center decide to dedicate so much of their time to studying the gibbons.
“I heard the gibbons sing and I haven’t left since,” said Alma Rodriguez, primate caregiver. “I just fell in love with them.”
For any more information about the Gibbon Conservation Center or upcoming center events, visit www.gibboncenter.org.