May 17, 2018

Baby Siamang Swings for the Outdoors


(Pittsburgh) (May 2018)—The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is excited to introduce our baby siamang, Cahya, who has been spending time behind-the-scenes growing and learning the ropes – literally.

Our visitors can see Cahya in the day room at Islands daily from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Weather permitting, she will be outside from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. So be sure to take to a trip to The Islands and visit with our little siamang.

Late last summer young parents Leela and Merlin welcomed their first off-spring. The little bundle of joy, with her long arms and wide brown eyes, barely weighed a pound.

As with any new arrival, keepers and staff via remote cameras watched over the little family to ensure mom and baby were bonding and the baby was nursing. Leela at first seemed content with her baby.

A week after Cahya’s birth however, keepers noticed that Leela stopped carrying Cahya. She would put her on the ground and move away. It is not unusual for first time parents to lack parenting skills with their babies especially in the first couple of weeks. As Leela continued to move away from her baby, our veterinary staff did a quick exam to ensure that Cahya was in good health.

Over time, Leela’s behavior with the baby became more agitated. She stopped making any attempt to feed her and would push Cahya away from her. Keepers then noticed that Merlin, the father, was beginning to show signs of aggression as well. Worried for the welfare and safety of Cahya, keepers made the tough decision to remove the baby. Removing a baby is always the last resort, but keepers were worried the young parents were becoming frustrated and might end up accidentally hurting their baby.

Wanting to give the young siamang family a chance to bond safely, keepers created a new and innovative way to keep the young family together and ensure everyone’s safety. They created a baby room for Cahya inside her parents’ larger room. Cahya’s room had soft blankets and toys with mesh sides for mom and dad to touch and see her, while allowing them to have their own space.

At seven months old, the Species Survival Plan (SSP) recommended keepers attempt a reintroduction of the young family however, two attempts at reintroductions failed

It was determined that Cahya will split time between the outside habitat and inside habitat where she can still see and hear her parents. With this new set up, the family can still see and touch Cahya but they won’t share the same space.

Keepers, meanwhile, have stepped in as surrogate parents to help Cahya continue to develop and grow. They sit with her in the outside yard and encourage her to climb and use the vines to swing. They make sure that she is eating and gaining weight.