A pair of silvery gibbons has arrived at the Curraghs Wildlife Park, which has been chosen to participate in a prestigious breeding programme.
The animals – the first lesser apes the park has housed – will prove a major attraction for visitors.
Nakula, an 11-year-old male, moved from Perth Zoo in Australia to Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent a year ago.
He was recently paired up with Slamet, a nine-year-old old female who was born at Howletts.
The gibbons arrived at the Curraghs Wildlife Park this week and are settling into their new enclosure, which has been two years in the preparation and incorporates an island and a rope bridge.
The wild silvery gibbon lives exclusively on the Indonesian island of Java but the population of 2000 adults of breeding age is threatened by habitat destruction and the illegal pet trade.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists it as ‘endangered’.
There are just 45 silvery gibbons in European zoos – more than half of them at Howletts.
The Aspinall Foundation, which operates Howletts and the Javan Primates Conservation Project, chose the Curraghs Wildlife Park to take part in the European Endangered Species’ breeding programme after a rigorous assessment of its suitability to house and breed the animals.
Kathleen Graham, park general manager, said: ‘We are delighted that Nakula and Slamet are here and we have high hopes they will breed.
‘As Nakula came all the way from Australasia and is yet to sire a youngster, he represents a new bloodline in the European stud book. It would be lovely if the first youngster from that line is born here.
‘We would like to thank Matt Ford, the European Silvery Gibbon studbook coordinator, and Howletts for their help and advice with this project.’
David Cretney MLC is the Member of the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture responsible for the Curraghs Wildlife Park.
He said: ‘The gibbons, with their long arms and fingers, adapted for swinging dextrously from tree to tree, and their distinctive ‘singing’ call, will be a big draw for visitors.
‘We hope we will soon have a baby gibbon to boost the population.’
Through the Aspinall Foundation and the Javan Primates Conservation Project, the park plans to raise awareness of the threats faced by silvery gibbons and funds to help the wild population.
For information about and to book tickets for the Curraghs Wildlife Park, visit http://www.curraghswildlifepark.im/
The park is open daily from 10am to 6pm (last admission 5pm) until the end of October.