Singapore, 17 September 2010 – The Singapore Zoo recently welcomed a baby siamang early this year on 15 March, marking the first successful birth in 17 years.

Born to parents Anna and Elmo, the six-month-old baby belongs to a sub-species of gibbons, which are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity due to their solitary and monogamous nature.

“This first-born by Anna demonstrates Singapore Zoo’s success in conserving a sustainable population of endangered animal species in captivity,” said Biswajit Guha, Director, Zoology, Singapore Zoo. “We have also bred other endangered primates such as the orang utan, proboscis monkey and Douc langurs. And now, visitors to the park can spot the baby siamang at its Treetops Trail exhibit, while enjoying the calls made by the other siamangs in the morning.”

Siamangs are the largest of the lesser apes and are found mostly in the forests of Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. They are typically black in colour with reddish-brown eyebrows and have webbings between their second and third toes. Another unique trait of the siamang is the amazingly loud vocal sound it makes which includes booms, hoots and barks. These sounds are amplified to ear-splitting levels by its large grey or pink throat sac. In the wild, their call has been known to carry a distance of up to three kilometres.

Anna and the baby male primate were released into the exhibit on 24 August, joining Elmo, the father of the baby. Among gibbons, siamangs form the closest bonds within the family unit and members are rarely separated from one another by more than 30m.

These arboreal primates which depend heavily on the forest for existence are listed as ‘endangered’ in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of threatened species. Nearly 40 per cent of their habitat is being damaged or destroyed as a result of human encroachment and other threats such as hunting and poaching. Although the species is currently protected throughout its home range, they can still reach a critically endangered status in the future if these threats continue to escalate.

Anna, and her six-month old male baby, Simbu. Equipped with remarkable vocal ability, adult pairs sing elaborate duets to each other, which last 30 minutes or more. This vocal display demarcates the pair’s territory and can be heard by rivals up to 3.2km away.

While the great apes tend to build nests in which they sleep, siamangs use the tough, horny pads on their bottoms to provide cushioning for a comfortable night in the treetops.

The baby stays close to its mother and makes some exploratory attempts at reaching for his father. The family will now be at Treetops Trail every day, dependent on the weather. The siamang disperses seeds through defecation as it travels across its territory. It can carry seeds and defecate over 300 m from the source, and this supports regeneration of the forest.