Swedish zoo celebrates geriatric gibbon birth

The recent birth of a healthy baby gibbon at a zoo in central Sweden has surprised keepers, given that its infamously fertile parents are well into their 40s, a rarity for the species.

Swedish zoo celebrates geriatric gibbon birth

When keepers at Parken Zoo in Eskilstuna made an early call to their resident pair of gibbons, Tarzan and Jane, on Monday morning they found a new family member in tow.

“We couldn’t be sure if she was pregnant,” zoo worker Louise Nilsberth told The Local. “It’s not easy to tell but we had our suspicions since she had quite a round belly.”

What makes the birth so remarkable is that both Tarzan and Jane are well into their 40s. “In human years that means they are in their 70s or 80s,” Nilsberth added.

“Gibbons usually live until they are 25-30 years old. We don’t know of any other cases in the world like this.”

In 2009, Jane made the headlines after giving birth to her tenth baby whilst in her 40s. Fours years on and the new arrival has defied the odds.

Their keepers are in the dark as to why the couple are so fertile and instead leave the gibbon couple to conduct their monkey business in private.

“It would be quite stressful for the animals to do research as such,” Nilsberth says. “But it is so rare that we do intend to look into it.”

Whilst the sex of the newborn won’t be known for a number of years, the zoo reports that both mother and child are doing well. “Jane’s a great mum, with plenty of experience and she’s taking good care of her new baby.”

Tarzan and Jane are a popular and familiar attraction for visitors, having arrived at the zoo in 1994. The White Handed, or Lar, gibbons are native to south-east Asia.

Parken zoo is no stranger to unique deliveries. Last year the zoo welcomed Sweden’s first birth of a white-cheeked gibbon, and in 2011 they witnessed the arrival of the country’s first baby giant anteater.

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Zookeeper suspended in dead animal scandal

The Parken Zoo animal park in central Sweden has suspended its head zookeeper for misleading statements about the killing of endangered animals at the zoo in a widening scandal that has prompted the Board of Agriculture to intervene.

Zookeeper suspended in dead animal scandal

In ordering the suspension, Parken Zoo officials cited “incompetent statements” made by head zookeeper Helena Olsson during an exposé documentary in which she denied killing the animals, stating that they had simply been moved to other zoos.

The statements were broadcast on an episode of the TV4 documentary Kalla Fakta (The Cold Facts) which aired on Wednesday night (see embedded video with English subtitles below).

“She has done a good job at Parken but she expressed herself incompetently. The statements Helena Olsson made have damaged the Parken Zoo,” said zoo CEO Torbjörn Bergvall to TV4 news.

Among the dead animals, which were stored en masse in a freezer after having been put down, were endangered Bongo antelopes, rare Congo crocodiles, and a family of pumas.

“Kalla Fakta revealed a number of things that are completely unacceptable for us that we didn’t know about,” Tommy Hamberg, chair of Parken Zoo board of direcdtors, told the TT news agency.

“The manner in which the dead animals were handled and the terrible communication about it was completely unacceptable. These were the biggest disappointments.”

However, Hamberg did not believe the news would affect the zoo in the long term.

“I am quite certain that this did a lot of damage. In the longer term, perhaps in six months when our season begins, things will probably be much better, as we will have shown that we’ve taken the problem seriously and reacted.”

Meanwhile, another zoo in eastern Sweden has had problems of its own this week, after ex-employees explained how animals were mistreated by the staff and owners.

The Öland Djurpark reportedly underfed its animals, forcing them to live in cramped enclosures, while killing certain animals to make room for more.

One staff member told The Local how a Brazilian aardvark was clubbed to death with a baseball bat.

Later it the week, it emerged that the Öland zoo forced temporary guest workers to live in cramped quarters and eat food donated to the zoo by local grocers that was intended for the animals.

“Saying you wanted to live and eat somewhere else was the equivalent of resigning,” former worker Marcin Wilk told Svergies Television (SVT).

According to Wilk, guest workers received 12,000 kronor ($1,800) per month after taxes, half of which was then claimed by the zoo, reportedly to cover the costs of food and lodging.

Other former employees who wished to remain anonymous have told similar stories to other media outlets about adverse working conditions at the zoo.

In the wake of the week’s scandals, the Swedish Board of Agriculture (Jordbruksverket) has called a meeting for the 20 parks and zoos that are members of The Swedish Association of Zoos and Aquaria (Svenska djurparksföreningen).

The meeting is scheduled for Friday next week, and aims to “take collective responsibility for the protection of species, animals and disease control”.


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