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Gibbon Conservation Center
The Gibbon Conservation Center in Santa Clarita is located at 19100 Esguarra Rd. in Santa Clarita.
When we drove there we took the 14 Freeway but it isn’t close really to either the 14 or the 5...it’s about 13 miles from the 14 freeway and and 16 miles from the 5 freeway. It located on a big piece of property that is accessed by a gravel road. The center is open to the public on the weekends only and the hours are 9:30 am-12 pm. There are guided tours each Saturday and Sunday at 10 but you can also come for a self-guided tours as well. We were given a guided tour and I recommend that because you will get so much more information than if you walk around by yourself. The cost for admission is $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, $12 for students and teens, $5 for children ages 6-12 and free for children 5 years old and younger.
If you don’t know anything about gibbons, you are not alone. They haven’t been studied as much as other apes and monkeys because they are endangered and live 200 feet up in the tops of trees in the rainforests of South and Southeast Asia. Some countries where gibbons can be found are Thailand, Cambodia, India and Indonesia. They move very quickly, up to 35 miles per hour, and that is another reason that they have not been studied as much by scientists: it’s just harder to observe them in the wild.
The neat part about going to this conservation center is that you’ll be able to see and hear 5 different species of gibbons (there are 17 species total) and learn their different characteristics. If you go to a zoo, you will likely see a gibbon but only one and therefore one species. Gibbons do not get along with other gibbons outside of their own family and they don’t really like humans either. However, in this center, the chain link enclosures allow you to see them swing, or brachiate on the tree branches and ropes. They didn’t seem to dislike people observing them and often made eye contact and showed off their swinging skills.
Our guide Neta made a slow circle with us around the outdoor center, telling us about each family, couple or single gibbon. She knew all of their names, habits, personalities and histories. She genuinely cares about these animals and clearly loves her job there.
When we observed that one young female gibbon was taking her vegetables and fruit and throwing them above her enclosure, Neta told us how once that gibbon started doing it, a lot of the other gibbons throughout the center copied her behavior. She was basically hiding her food to keep for later but I guess there are times she forgets it’s up there and it’s only when the center’s employees are cleaning that they discover the rotten food.
The center started when one man, Alan Mootnick, took an interest in these animals. He had hear the sound of gibbons in the TV show Tarzan but didn’t know what animal made those noises. At a subsequent visit to the zoo, he saw gibbons and made the connection between the noises and the animals. He was successful in creating this center and in breeding these endangered animals in captivity. He died 2 years ago but the center is continuing his mission. There is ongoing research into how to best raise the animals and then get them ready to released into the wild.
We had been quietly enjoying our tour wen Neta told us that she was going to try and get the gibbons to start singing. Each species sounds quite different from the other. They usually sing at dawn and then before going to sleep. It was fascinating to watch as Neta began by calling to one of the more territorial species and then getting a gibbon to sing back. As soon as that gibbon starts to make his noises, then one of one all of the other gibbons joined in. It was magical! We walked from enclosure to enclosure as the animals made their noises, some so loud you couldn’t hear any of the others. In fact, that species of gibbon is so loud that they can be heard from over a mile away. We stayed for a while and then headed out. She told us they would continue for about a half hour.
In conclusion, we highly recommend a visit to this center. We learned a lot about gibbons and how important it is to help them because their natural habitat, the rainforest, is slowly being destroyed.