You’ll never hear a siamang call quite like that of the ABQ BioPark Zoo’s Brian and Johore.
That’s because there really is no other song like it—each monogamous siamang gibbon pair has a unique duet. This lesser ape is extremely territorial and calling helps a pair to defend its territory from other siamangs.
Although Brian and Johore are the only siamang pair at the BioPark, there is a new song maker on the scene—two-year-old Tika, who has recently chimed in with her own vocalizations.
Tika was born in January 2014 and zookeeper Jamie Ohrt describes her as a “ham” because of her “exuberant” energy. Ohrt says while Brian and Johore are calm and mellow, they both take turns playing with Tika.
“She’s the energizer bunny out there. It’s fun to watch her move the way she does,” Ohrt said. “Tika brings a lot of liveliness to the group”
Brian and Johore first became parents in 2010, but zookeepers had to hand-raise baby Noah because Johore didn’t know what to make of motherhood. Noah eventually landed a siamang surrogate mother at the Tulsa Zoo in Oklahoma.
When Tika was born, the BioPark’s primate keepers watched the situation carefully and kept their fingers crossed. Luckily, this time was different.
“Johore figured out the whole motherhood thing great this time,” Ohrt said. “As a staff, we’re very excited about them doing it for themselves this time around. It’s nice to see that Johore has really taken to being a mom and Brian has stepped up too.”
And step up Brian has—in fact, parenting is his responsibility these days. In the first six months or so, female siamangs care for their young. After that, they hand the responsibilities over to the males.
“Brian has taken over parenting responsibilities and he’s a good dad,” said Ohrt.
Speaking of siamang gender roles, the females rule. For instance, if Johore craves a grape, she’ll simply reach over Brian and take his, no questions asked.
Similarly, if she wants him to back off she’ll just flash her teeth. Siamangs use many gestures to communicate, and this one says “get away.”
In addition to visual cues, siamangs use chirps to communicate.
“It’s really fascinating to watch them,” Ohrt said.
- While you’re likely to catch the BioPark’s siamangs in the trees, they also spend time on the ground—more time than you’d see from their wild counterparts, who live high up in the canopies of Asian forests. Nonetheless, these three still have long arms built for a tree-dwelling life-style—so long, that they drag when walking on the ground. That’s why they’ve developed a unique walking style. Instead of dragging their arms, they lift them in the air.
- Most siamangs call around dawn. While it’s hit and miss, the best time to try to catch Brian and Johore calling is from 9-10 a.m.