Reluctant suitor produces rare heir: Lincoln Park Zoo gaga over gibbon
gibbons at cinesite.com
Fri Oct 5 18:14:19 EDT 2001
Reluctant suitor produces rare heir
Lincoln Park Zoo gaga over gibbon
By William Mullen
Tribune staff reporter
October 5, 2001
Three years ago Lincoln Park Zoo staffers knew there was a
when Caruso, their very rare white-cheeked male gibbon,
amorous solicitations from his comely consort, Burma, for an
invitation to play leapfrog.
Such behavior would not do, considering there are only 32
white-cheeked gibbons in North American zoos and fewer than
left in the wilds of Vietnam, Laos and China. It was
important to the zoo world that Caruso and Burma start
So the entire staff of the zoo's primate house became the
equivalents of human sex researchers.
On Thursday their efforts seemed to pay off as they
Nahn, the baby of still indeterminate sex born to Burma
"It is almost impossible to express our delight in this
important birth," said Kristen Lukas, the zoo's primate
Just six months ago, she was so certain the zoo's efforts
miserably that she wrote a scholarly paper on "how we failed
reproduce gibbons." It was accepted for publication.
The problem was that Caruso, born in a German zoo in 1990
by humans, didn't seem to have a clue about gibbon love
The handsome, jet-black creature with striking white cheeks
a public favorite since coming here in 1993. An unrestrained
exhibitionist, he often presses himself to the glass of his
to get attention from the big crowds that gather.
In 1994, the zoo acquired buff-colored Burma from the
National Zoo in
Washington, D.C., where she was born in 1988 and raised by
Though the two proved companionable, Caruso rarely showed
when Burma was in a seductive mood. And even when he did,
been known to walk away from the most passionate of moments
human visitors at his window, Lukas said.
In November 1998, Lukas and the primate house crew began
Burma daily to map her reproductive cycles. Once they had a
of when she was in estrus each month, they began
creating the right environment to induce Caruso to mate.
"In May, we had given up, and we decided to trade Caruso for
male in the Cincinnati Zoo," Lukas said. "We were giving him
physical in preparation for the shipment when, almost as an
afterthought, we decided to give Burma a physical, too."
Lo and behold, Burma was in the second trimester of her
The keepers aptly named the baby Kien Nahn, which means
Though proud of the keepers' efforts to encourage mating,
she isn't sure if they did anything right at all.
"It could be that these two animals just finally matured,
and we had
nothing to do with this pregnancy," she said. "We may have
three years dancing on our own heads, accomplishing
Nonetheless, she is busily rewriting her "failure" paper for
publication in the journal Zoo Biology.
"What if the hokey pokey is REALLY what it's all about?"
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