White-cheeked gibbon

Scientific name:

Nomascus leucogenys

Toledo Zoo Family:

Our group includes a father (Batu), a mother (Hue “whey”), and their 3 offspring. The adults have lived here since Primate Forest opened. Hue is the only beige adult, and sometimes you will see her playing or wrestling with the “kids” or grooming them (or grooming the father). She and all her offspring know how to do somersaults!

The oldest offspring is a male (Jin), medium-sized, who often plays with his little brother or sits by himself. His younger brother (Quon) is the smallest black gibbon in the exhibit, while the small grayish gibbon is the youngest female (Niu), born in 2012. She is still nursing but eats all the solid food the others eat. She can climb all over the mesh and run on the ground by herself, and she likes to “attack” play with her brothers and dad.  Niu was born beige, but is now almost all black.  Just her head and cheeks are still beige. 

Jin - Photo by Toledo Zoo keeper Kate Clifton

Hue and Niu - Photo by Toledo Zoo keeper Kate Clifton

Quon - Photo by Toledo Zoo keeper Kate Clifton

The video below features Niu as a baby, interacting with her family:

Range and habitat:

In the wild, white-cheeked gibbons live in the rainforest canopies of southern China, northern Vietnam and Laos.

Natural diet:

Ripe fruit, leaves and invertebrates.

Zoo diet:

Fruit, vegetables, lettuce and monkey chow.

Size / weight range:

White-cheeked gibbons are 18-25 inches tall and weigh about 12 pounds. Males and females are about the same size.

Life history:

Gibbons have a gestation of about 7-½ months and mature at 6 to 8 years. In zoo environments, they live into their early 30s.
Social structure: gibbons live in mated pairs with their offspring, in group numbers up to 5. 

Interesting facts:

White-cheeked gibbons are monogamous, and they mate for life. Males help care for the young once the babies get a little older.

They sing to communicate, broadcast and defend territory, and form and maintain pair bonds. Each gibbon pair has a special song that they create when they meet. This duet is extremely loud; it can be heard for miles in the wild, and our neighbors outside the Zoo can hear it every morning (keepers wear airport headphones when they are in the building if the gibbons are singing). The “kids” in our group also chime in mimicking the mother’s part, and they will likely take their song part with them when they leave and create a song of their own with a mate.

Adult male white-cheeked gibbons are always black, and the adult females are always beige. However, all babies are born beige to blend in with Mom. The babies turn black by age one; when females reach maturity at 7 to 9 years, they turn beige again. This is similar to puberty, signaling that the females are ready to have a family of their own.

Gibbons are not monkeys; they are apes. The easiest way to know is by their lack of a tail. All monkeys have tails (though not all primates with tails are monkeys). Gibbons are lesser apes, and are evolutionarily placed in between monkeys and great apes (gorillas, orangutans, etc.).
Gibbons are strictly arboreal. They spend most of their time in the trees - traveling, foraging and resting. Their bodies are made for life in the trees, and their main mode of transportation is brachiation. Their arms are incredibly strong; from a hanging position, they can hoist their entire body over the top of a log.  Most humans have trouble doing just one chin-up! 

Location at the Toledo Zoo:

Primate Forest
You may also able see our white-cheeked gibbons on the Primate Cam by visiting our Animal Web Cams page!

Conservation status:

Critically endangered due to hunting and habitat loss. This species has declined by over 80 percent in the last 45 years.