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SANBI National Zoological Garden celebrates arrival of new male Buff-cheeked Gibbon, Sylvester, furthering conservation efforts

The South African National Biodiversity Institute’s National Zoological Gardens (SANBI NZG) is thrilled to announce the arrival of a new male Buff-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus gabriellae) named Sylvester. 

Sylvester arrived in South Africa on 26 May 2023 from Le Teste de Buch Zoo in France. After successfully completing his mandatory 30-day quarantine, he has been integrated into his new home at the zoo.

Sylvester has been chosen to play a crucial role in the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) ex situ studbook programme, owing to his genetic lineage. His addition to the programme is a significant step towards the conservation of the endangered species, as the SANBI NZG has participated in this programme since 1988, having produced 15 offspring for the initiative.

“Sylvester has already been introduced to his carefully selected partner, and there are already promising signs that they have bonded. The current focus at SANBI NZG is now to make the pair as happy as possible, and then to let nature take its course” says Tracy Rehse, Director of Conservation at the NZG. “This carefully curated pairing is expected to make a valuable contribution to the continued conservation efforts of this precious species.”

Buff-cheeked gibbons (Nomascus gabriellae) are native to Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and Vietnam. These remarkable primates exhibit fascinating colour changes during their lifespans. At birth, they are born blond, but within the first year, their fur transitions to a striking black hue. Males retain their black fur throughout their lives, with distinctive golden cheeks that set them apart. On the other hand, females change back to the blonde colouration again as they reach sexual maturity,  except for a notable black cap atop their heads.

“The arrival of Sylvester at SANBI NZG marks a remarkable milestone in our ongoing commitment to conservation efforts,” says Rehse. “By participating in the EAZA ex situ studbook programme and facilitating successful breeding, we aim to safeguard the future of the Buff-cheeked gibbon species.”