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Virginia Zoo welcomes new baby Siamang

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Posted at 12:24 PM, Aug 29, 2012
and last updated 2012-08-29 12:24:06-04

A baby siamang clings to its mother at the Virginia Zoo Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2012 (Virginia Zoo photo by Kelsey Bethune).

A new baby siamang is now welcoming visitors at the Virginia Zoo’s Asia – Trail of the Tiger exhibit.

According to Virginia Zoo officials, first-time mother Hitam delivered sometime late Sunday night, August 20, or early Monday morning, and the new baby was discovered clinging to her stomach Monday morning, August 21, by zookeepers.

Hitam came to the Virginia Zoo from the San Diego Zoo, while the father, Bali, came from Howletts Wild Animal Park in England. The baby’s sex has yet to be determined. 

“This is a very important birth, as siamangs are critically endangered and facing increasing pressure in the wild. We’re hopeful that this spectacular event marks the beginning of a growing siamang family here at the Virginia Zoo,” said Greg Bockheim, the Zoo’s executive director. “Initially, Hitam and her baby spent most of their time behind the scenes, but they can now frequently be seen in their indoor playroom.” 

Siamangs are native to the rainforests of Southeast Asia and are the largest species of gibbon. They have black shaggy hair and a naked face. Siamangs have large gray or pink throat pouch that can be inflated, allowing them to make loud resonating calls that can be heard more than two miles away. They are omnivorous, eating mostly leaves, but also fruit, insects, nuts, small animals, birds and bird’s eggs. Males and females are similar in size, growing to 30 to 35 inches in length and weighing approximately 17 to 28 pounds. 

Siamangs bear one offspring after a 7 to 8 month gestation period. For the first few months, the baby clings to the mother’s abdomen. By age two, the baby is independent, but still very much a part of the family. At about seven years old they reach sexual maturity and leave their parents.