The ABQ BioPark Zoo is going with a unisex name for a newborn baby siamang — not in the interest of political correctness, but because zoo keepers don’t yet know the gender of the baby.
Born June 12, keeper Zachary Weisberg bestowed the name of Rue on the hirsute little primate, “so it can evolve into Ruth if it turns out to be female, or it can become Rupert, if it turns out to be male,” Weisberg said Friday.
Rue was born to 30-year-old mother Johore and 32-year-old father Brian. Including 4-year-old brother Eerie, the zoo’s complement of Siamangs is now four.
“Johore and the baby are doing great,” said zoo manager Lynn Tupa, noting that Johore is an experienced mother who has given birth to four other babies over the years with her mate, Brian.
The birth of Rue was part of a Species Survival Plan for siamangs, which are native to the tropical rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia.
According to a number of primate conservation sites, siamangs are the largest of about 18 kinds of gibbons. They are classified as an endangered species because of capture for the pet trade and habitat loss from logging and palm oil farming. It is estimated that fewer than 200,000 remain in the wild, where they often share their habitat with the also-endangered orangutans.
Siamangs spend most of their lives in the forest canopy and live in tight-knit family groups with a bonded pair and several offspring, Weisberg said. The offspring leave the family group after five to seven years to form their own family groups.
Their diet is mostly fruits, leaves, some vegetables and the occasional insect and bird egg, he said.
Siamangs do not have tails and are considered part of the family of lesser (meaning smaller) apes, Weisberg said. They generally weigh from 20 to 30 pounds, and when upright can reach 3 feet tall. An inflatable throat sac that they can expand to the size of their head is used for vocalizations.
Like many non-human primate species, siamangs have opposable big toes in addition to opposable thumbs, and arms that are longer than their legs. They have been known to live in captivity from 40 to 50 years, with shorter lives in the wild.