SINGING FOR THEIR SUPPER FUNDRAISER FOR MUSICAL APES.
SAUGUS - A young couple from Southeast Asia is drawing the ire of its neighbors, simply for reveling in the joy of being honeymooners.
The neighbors bang on the walls - summoning the throbbing and fury of a taiko drum solo - as if to tell Kino, 24, and Rumi, 6, ``Get a room.''
``When something's going on next door, they tend to be interested,'' said Erin Bell, facilities supervisor at the Gibbon Conservation Center in Saugus. The pair of black siamangs often couple 20 times a day.
The nonprofit center in Bouquet Canyon houses the largest captive group of the small, tree-loving apes in the Western Hemisphere. Six of the 13 species of gibbons are represented at the center, operated by primatologist Alan Mootnick for 25 years. On Sunday, the center will host Breakfast with the Gibbons, an annual fundraiser that will include a talk by Mootnick.
In the wild, gibbons live in rain forests in exotic places like China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. They're survival is threatened as their habitat dwindles.
At the center, the animals are kept in 12 cages with upper reaches spanned by smooth weighty branches. The cages are devoid of toys - a no-no Mootnick says - but the occasional rope or bungee cord mimics natural vines.
Gibbons are known for their beguiling singing, which consists of whoops and high-pitched trills that can be heard a couple of miles away. The agile tree-swingers, whose arms are 1 1/2 times as long as their legs, live in family units in their natural habitats. Their arms can propel them from tree to tree at 35 mph. They often defy gravity, by flying upward and changing direction in midair. Mootnick often trades mature animals with zoos in England, Australia or this country to promote breeding.
Four-and-a-half-year-old Kanaka was given a Japanese name to prepare her for an upcoming move to a Japanese zoo to mate with a male born about the same time. Mootnick does not pay for animals - they are acquired by trade.
Mootnick's fascination with the apes emerged when he was 9 and hooked on Tarzan.
``I was enamored with him, wanting to be his son,'' he said. ``When they would be in the deepest part of the forest, the gibbons would vocalize.''
A trip to the zoo sealed Mootnick's eventual fate, though he took a detour studying dental technology in college.
Mootnick pockets no pay for his 80-hour work weeks and depends on donations to pay the $100,000-a-year tab needed to keep the apes up to their armpits in apples, carrots, yams and lettuce. Bell, the lone paid employee, who sometimes hand-feeds the apes, also brings them roses - for the nutrition contained in the rose hips.
Mootnick's expertise is widely recognized.
``He probably is one of the experts on gibbons,'' said Jennie McNary, curator for mammals at the Los Angeles Zoo. ``He has done a lot, not just for the knowledge of gibbons in captivity, but he has traveled to other countries and done a lot of conservation work, worked with rehab centers and worked with genetic studies to determine species and sub species issues.''
Her colleague at the San Diego Zoo concurs. ``He has probably done more work with gibbons than anyone else in this country,'' said Karen Killmar, associate curator of mammals.
While the center's efforts are recognized from afar, its neighbors at Lombardi Ranch also have a kind word. Customers who visit the ranch's seasonal produce stand often mistake the gibbons' calls for those of coyotes.
``When we tell them what it is they look at us like, ``What?'' said staffer Dawn Mattivi. ``They're interesting to listen to, the variants in the sounds they make.''
The singing is a territorial call.
``It's a way to announce where you live, by placing a boundary on the borders,'' Mootnick said.
The center holds the record for producing the largest number of gibbon babies born in captivity anywhere in the world during the last decade.
Judy O'Rourke, (661) 257-5255
Breakfast With the Gibbons
The Gibbon Conservation Center in Bouquet Canyon will host a fundraiser from 8:30 a.m. to noon Sunday that will include a guided tour of the premises and a silent auction. More information and directions can be found at www.gibboncenter.org.
3 photos, box
(1 -- color) A gibbon stares from its cage at the Gibbon Conservation Center in Bouquet Canyon. The preserve, which depends on donations to operate, will hold a fundraising breakfast on Sunday at the center.
(2 -- color) Alan Mootnick, who has operated the Gibbon Conservation Center for 25 years, will deliver a lecture at the fundraiser.
David Crane/Staff Photographer
(3 -- color) At left, Erin Bell prepares T-shirts for Sunday's breakfast.
Breakfast With the Gibbons (see text)
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Oct 20, 2005|
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