September 28, 2018

Zoos Work to Find New Home for Cayha


The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s one-year-old siamang has a new home at the Erie Zoo.

It is never an easy decision to move an animal to another facility. Keepers develop deep relationships with their animals and visitors grow accustomed to seeing their favorite friends each time they visit. But an animal’s care and welfare is top priority at the Pittsburgh Zoo, so when the opportunity developed for our orphaned siamang Cayha to move to a new home with a surrogate family that would care for her, the tough decision had to be made.

Cayha was special from the time she was born. Not only was she a new baby to first-time parents Merlin and Leela, but she was the first-ever siamang born at the Pittsburgh Zoo.

Her long arms and wide brown eyes instantly won the hearts of her keepers and visitors.

When Cayha was born, keepers gave the new family time together inside where Leela and Merlin could quietly adjust to the new baby. It isn’t unusual for first-time parents to be overwhelmed and stop caring for their baby, so keepers wanted to keep the family together in a calm and comfortable environment. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as planned. Both parents became overly aggressive toward the baby, so for her health and safety, keepers had to remove Cayha from her parents and become her full-time caregivers instead.

The baby siamang required 24-hour-care and keepers throughout the Zoo signed up for a shift. Even though they were learning right along with Cayha and enjoying the opportunity to spend time with her, everyone involved knew that this was not an ideal situation for the young siamang.

Cayha needed to be with other siamangs.

Karen Vacco, Assistant Curator of Mammals, knew this all too well. After researching zoological institutions with siamangs, she found the Erie Zoo not only had a siamang family, but they had a family that Cayha was related to.

Though keepers knew that this was the right decision for Cayha, it was still emotionally difficult to pack up her toys and special blanket, and say their goodbyes.

“Deep down, I knew this was the best scenario for her,” Vacco says. “It’s important for Cayha to grow up being a siamang and learning from other siamangs. But I still teared up as I said goodbye.”

In her new home at the Erie Zoo, Cayha has her own room which is adjacent to her new family’s room. Everyone has the ability to see, touch, and hear each other as the siamangs get to know one another. Once Cahya and her new family seem comfortable, keepers will introduce Cayha to her new playmate, a two-year-old male.

We are excited to see how the future develops for Cayha and her new family.

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