Mother Dieng and father Lionel became parents the first time when male Jaka was born March 14, 2011, the news release said. Jaka still lives with his parents at the zoo because young gibbons typically remain with their family for about seven years before going off on their own.
The birth is a rare occurrence in the zoo world and also important for the long-term future of the small, gray apes, the zoo said.
The animals, which live only on the island of Java in Indonesia, are endangered in the wild.
Researchers believe only about 4,000 Javan gibbons remain in the wild, the news release said. They face intense pressure on their habitat from the growing population in Java, the zoo said.
Java's more than 130 million people equal about half the population of the United States, but they live on an island about the size of North Carolina.
The Fort Wayne zoo is one of only two accredited zoos that exhibits Javan gibbons in North America, the news release said. The baby is one of only two born in the last year in North America and one of only seven born in zoos worldwide during that time.
“We are thrilled with the birth,” Fort Wayne zoo Animal Curator Mark Weldon said in the news release. “Dieng is being a good mother and the baby appears healthy.”
The baby currently spends its time clinging to Dieng's belly, the news release said.
The Javan gibbons will be kept in their indoor quarters until mother and baby are ready to go into the exhibit and until daytime temperatures are consistently over 60 degrees, the news release said.
Until that time, zoo visitors occasionally might see the family in the overhead chute that leads to their outdoor exhibit along the Treetops Trail in the zoo's Indonesian Rain Forest area.
Lionel and Dieng came to the local zoo in August 2010. Lionel previously lived at the Gibbon Conservation Center in California, and Dieng lived at the Belfast Zoo in Northern Ireland.
The Fort Wayne zoo is working with other zoos and conservation groups to establish a healthy, captive population of Javan gibbons in case the wild population cannot sustain itself, the news release said.
Javan gibbons are one of three species highlighted in the zoo's new Kids4Nature program. Zoo visitors can vote on how to distribute about $25,000 in zoo funds to conservation efforts for Javan gibbons, sandhill cranes and African lions.
The zoo is at 3411 Sherman Blvd. in Franke Park. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily now through Oct. 13.
Admission is $13.50 for adults; $10.50 for ages 60 and older; $8.50 for children ages 2-14, and free for age 1 and younger and Zoo Society members.
For information, call 427-6800 or go to www.kidszoo.org.