A nine-month-old white-cheeked gibbon from the Minnesota Zoological Gardens is making her home in Nashville after her parents exhibited aggression and lack of parental care towards the infant.
Muffy, a 41-year-old gibbon who has been a successful surrogate to three other gibbons, will raise Ari.
Muffy and Ari will be housed in an off-exhibit area to give them time to bond. Karen Rice, mammal curator at Nashville Zoo, said the physical introductions have gone well and the two primates playful and engaging with one another.
Visitors will have the opportunity to see Muffy and Ari at keeper talks held on Tuesdays at 12:30 p.m., Thursdays at 2:30 p.m., Saturdays at 11:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
“Surrogacy is the best option for a primate when it has to be separated from its parents,” said Karen Rice, mammal curator at Nashville Zoo. “Since Muffy has proven herself as a good surrogate in the past, we were asked if we would accept Ari and place her with Muffy. Not only does this situation give Ari the best shot at a typical gibbon lifestyle, it also gives the zoo the chance to contribute to conservation efforts to preserve endangered white-cheeked gibbons.”
A surrogate parent is vital to the social development of gibbons for many reasons. It allows the infant to experience safe, physical contact with a member of its own species without imprinting too heavily on humans. It also mimics a social situation the infant would normally experience. In the case of primates, such as gibbons, successful surrogate programs will develop a normally functioning adult.
For more information about Nashville Zoo, visit www.nashvillezoo.org.