The Utica Zoo is excited to announce their female, white-handed gibbon, Snowflake, gave birth to a healthy baby on Monday, January 30. This is an extraordinary circumstance because Snowflake is 35 years old, and her male companion, Yoda is 38 years old.
Members of the animal care and veterinary teams have been monitoring the new mother and baby and have determined that both are in great health. The baby, which is still not named, as well as Snowflake and Yoda will remain off public exhibit to give the family time to bond and continue to care for the baby. The winter weather will also be a factor to determine when the gibbon will be seen out in their habitat. The two-week offspring is still without any fur for protection against the elements.
The zoo is authorized from the Gibbon, Lar (White-Handed) Species Survival Program for the two gibbons to breed, but due to their age it was not anticipated that they would be successful. This is the third time Snowflake and Yoda became parents while at the Utica Zoo. Their last birth was 23 years ago to female Malay who now resides at Zoo Knoxville.
“It’s our understanding that it is very rare for gibbons under human care and with their advanced age to successfully breed,” Andria Heath, Utica Zoo Executive Director said. “We strongly believe this was a result of the excellent care the gibbons receive on a daily basis from our animal care and veterinary team, as well as a testament to the significant improvements that were made on their habitat in 2018 as part of the ‘We Don’t Like It Either’ Campaign.”
White-handed gibbons are classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. This is due, in part, to the flourishing illegal pet trade in Thailand in which they are hunted, captured, traded, and exploited. The deforestation of their forest habitat is also a threat and is becoming more of a problem. Protected conservation areas provide the greatest survival rates for populations of this species, although the ongoing agricultural development through these areas increases both fragmentation and access for hunters.