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Press Release

Zoo Siamang family doubles in size!

May 25, 2011. The El Paso Zoo is happy to announce the birth of a baby siamang! The small black ape, a member of the gibbon family, was born on May 2. The Zoo has been very successful in breeding these endangered primates. Another baby was born on December 2, 2007.

Last week the zoo completed a new shade structure to provide more shade for the growing family.

Siamangs live in small families composed of a mated pair and their young. They are territorial and defend their territory with daily calls or bark-like vocalizations. When they vocalize they produce different kinds of sounds using their throat sac. After their morning ceremonial vocalizations they begin walking and climbing around their exhibit. Unlike larger apes like gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans that walk with their hands and feet siamangs walk with their hands in the air.

The siamangs share their exhibit with a pair of Malayan tapirs and some cattle egrets in the Asia area of the Zoo.

More Siamang Facts:

Endangered: Siamangs are in the gibbon family (Hylobatidae). Nearly all sixteen species of gibbons are endangered. Siamangs are declining in numbers as their habitat is destroyed for logging and expanding palm oil plantations and as people enter their forested territory, often killing the mothers in order to capture the young for the lucrative pet market.

Almost a third of all apes, monkeys and other primates are in danger of extinction because of rampant habitat destruction, the commercial sale of their meat and the trade in illegal wildlife. Of the world's 394 primate species, 114 are classified as threatened with extinction by the World Conservation Union.

According to a report in October by the Associated Press on the status of the top 25 most endangered primates: "You could fit all the surviving members of the 25 species in a single football stadium; that's how few of them remain on Earth today," said Russell A. Mittermeier, president of Conservation International. "The situation is worst in Asia, where tropical forest destruction and the hunting and trading of monkeys puts many species at terrible risk," said Mittermeier, who is also chairman of the World Conservation Union's Primate Specialist Group, which prepared the report with the International Primatological Society.

Where do Siamangs live? Siamangs are found throughout southeastern Asia, including Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula.

What do they eat? Siamangs eat fruit, leaves, insects, nuts, small animals, birds and bird's eggs. In the zoo they are fed fruit, vegetables and monkey chow.

What do they look like? Scientific Name: Pongidae Hylobates syndactylus. The Siamang is the largest of the gibbon family and an ape, not a monkey. (The characteristics distinguishing apes from monkeys are the absence of a tail, their primarily upright posture, and a highly developed brain. Gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans are also apes.)

How do they Walk? The Siamang is best at walking on two legs and has webbing between the second and third toe. When walking, Siamangs will hold their arms above their heads for balance. The Siamang is always black, with reddish-brown eyebrows. Siamangs and Gibbons have padding to help them spend a comfortable night seated on tree branches, safe from predators and huddling together in groups of two or three when they sleep. They live in family groups led by a dominant male. They are protective of one another and sociable among themselves. Along with other gibbons, the Siamangs are the top trapeze artists of the animal world and can launch themselves 30-50 feet, using their hands as hooks. While their arms are used for travel, their feet are used to carry objects.

Babies: Siamangs have one offspring after a seven-month gestation period. At birth, the young are naked, and for the first few months, the baby clings to the mother's abdomen. She keeps her legs partially raised to provide warmth and support. By the age of two, the baby is independent but still very much a part of the family. Sexual maturity is reached at about seven years of age. In the wild they live from 25 to 30 years.

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The El Paso Zoo is a thirty five-acre home to about 228 species of animals. Approximately 420 mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds, 100 fish and 300 invertebrates live in a variety of natural habitat exhibits including a Reptile House, South American Pavilion, Americas Aviary, Cisneros Paraje, Birds of Prey, Forest Atrium, Asian Grasslands and an Elephant Complex. The El Paso Zoo is a member of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA). With its more than 200 accredited members, AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation.

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