Extremely rare gibbon born at Perth Zoo

A newborn white-cheeked gibbon, one of the world's rarest apes, which has made its public debut at Perth Zoo. Picture: Supplied
A newborn white-cheeked gibbon, one of the world's rarest apes, which has made its public debut at Perth Zoo. Picture: Supplied

A NEWBORN white-cheeked gibbon, one of the world’s rarest apes, has made its public debut at Perth Zoo before keepers have had the chance to determine its gender.

The infant was born 21 days ago to mother Jermei, whose calm nature has allowed zoo visitors to get a glimpse of the new addition.

“While we give mother and baby the space to bond, we haven’t yet determined if it is a male or female, but it has been seen suckling and is strong and healthy,” primate supervisor Holly Thompson said on Wednesday.

“Brother Canh is fascinated by his new sibling but Jermei has had to temper his enthusiasm when he gets a little bit overexcited.

“It’s a lovely family dynamic to watch.”

Mother Jermei with the new addition. Picture: Nadia Budihardjo

Ms Thompson said this was the third offspring for 16-year-old Jermei and staff did not interfere with the birth.

“We came in the morning and there was a little baby,” she said.

“They’re born gold, same as their mum, and at one year of age, they’ll turn black.”

Perth Zoo is just one-of-three zoos in Australasia breeding the critically endangered species in a bid to prevent extinction.

Ms Thompson said Jermei’s oldest offspring was sent to Tasmania Zoo but there were no plans yet for the newborn or its brother Cahn.

“Whenever we breed a gibbon, it’s in the back of our minds that they have a home to go to,” she said.

The new addition has made its public debut. Picture: Nadia Budihardjo

Habitat destruction across their home range of China, Vietnam and Laos is a major threat to the animals, which are also targeted for the illegal pet trade.

The zoo also helps save the species in the wild, funding monitoring points at Pu Mat National Park in Vietnam, which is one of the last white-cheeked gibbon strongholds.

“This is desperately needed as conservationists do not know how few gibbons remain in the wild,” Ms Thompson said.

“We’ve also supported programs to educate more than 700 people living around the park about the rare ape.”