Hamilton Zoo's siamangs get new outdoor enclosure

CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Hamilton Zoo director Stephen Standley talks about the new outdoor siamang enclosure, home to Itam and Iuri.

Hamilton's resident siamangs have been given a retirement home in which to live out their twilight years.

The elderly primate couple, Itam and Iuri, have settled into Hamilton Zoo after relocating from Auckland Zoo in 2009. 

"It's quite an experience for them, because they're now in their 30s, so they've had a long time living in much smaller accommodation," zoo director Stephen Standley✓ said.

An upturned funnel provides shelter for the primates in their outdoor enclosure.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

An upturned funnel provides shelter for the primates in their outdoor enclosure.

A new outdoor enclosure gives visitors a clear view of the endangered species as guests are only separated from the enclosure by 1.2m-deep water. 

"Siamang don't normally swim - in fact, they don't swim very far at all - so we have a ledge in front [of the bank] so if they do slip in, they have a chance to get out again," Standley said. 

The species are endangered, but they've made a noble contribution to a global breeding programme, which aims to boost their numbers.

Hamilton Zoo has built a new outdoor enclosure for its two siamangs, Itam and Iuri.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Hamilton Zoo has built a new outdoor enclosure for its two siamangs, Itam and Iuri.

Before Hamilton, female Iuri, 36, and her beau Itam, 32, lived at Auckland Zoo and reared six offspring – four of whom are still alive. Some now live at other zoos in  Australasia, Standley said.

Standley said siamangs live about 40 years and "breed pretty much to the end," but Iuri was sterilised in 2003.

"With a managed breeding programme you don't want to saturate the programme with a particular bloodline."

When the pair die, the zoo intends to get a breeding pair, Standley said.

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The siamang is the largest of the gibbon family and has an inflatable throat sac, allowing them to make loud resonating calls called songs.

They sing for about 15 minutes several times a day. These calls are thought to aid bonding of pairs as well as protecting territory and can be heard from up to 5km away."

Standley said Hamilton Zoo has recently hired three new staff following a fatal tiger attack on zoo curator Samantha Kudeweh in September.

Immediately after the attack, WorkSafe NZ required the zoo to move to a two-keeper system for managing tigers.

Standley said he was unable to comment on anything related to the fatal incident as investigations are ongoing.

 - Stuff

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