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Keepers find ‘surprise bundle’ in arms of endangered primate, zoo says. See the baby

Keepers find ‘surprise bundle’ in arms of endangered primate, zoo says. See the baby
Malana, the female siamang, was acting funny.

Noticing her unusual behavior, keepers at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk thought about running tests but decided to hold back.

On March 15, staff arrived to find a “surprise bundle” with Malana, according to a March 19 Facebook post. She had given birth.

Malana, the siamang, holds her newborn. The baby was born March 15. Virginia Zoo
Malana, the siamang, holds her newborn. The baby was born March 15. Virginia Zoo

Malana is already the mother of five, the zoo said in a March 21 news release. At 35 years old, she is considered a senior animal in her species. Siamangs’ median life expectancy is around 27 years, but they can live up to 40 years in human care.

Siamangs are primates known for their black coats, tight family groups and singing, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. Under their chins are recognizable neck sacks that balloon out when they vocalize. Their songs are the soundtrack of the tropical forests of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Siamangs can be heard crying “wow”, producing a “deep boom” sound and making a “bark-like vocalization.”

They often sing in unison in their family groups.

Siamangs are also increasingly endangered.

“Their numbers have declined by 50 percent over the past 40 years, primarily because of the illegal pet trade and habitat loss,” the Smithsonian said, explaining that timber extraction is largely to blame. In addition, “many adults are killed so humans can have an infant as a pet, even though this practice is illegal.”

Siamangs are unique in the animal kingdom. They are mostly monogamous, according to the Oakland Zoo, with family groups that have devoted fathers who help raise the young.

And at the Virginia Zoo, it’s no different. Bali, is the new baby’s father. He and Malana’s older offspring, Lovejoy, “have been calm and curious around mom and baby, taking turns grooming Malana,” the zoo said.

“The whole family has been heard ‘singing’ together,” the zoo said, “a behavior which helps solidify family and social bonds.”

Given the endangered status of the species, the zoo is especially excited about this surprise addition.

“The birth of any endangered species is always a cause for celebration,” Emily Smicker, director of communications at the Virginia Zoo, said. “We are thrilled to see the group bonding and supporting each other, and we feel privileged to have a front row seat as this baby grows into an energetic young siamang.”

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