Put Me In The Zoo: Gibbon Conservation Center Review Date of visit: March 22, 2015. I visited with my friends and fellow Zoochatters Chris Barela and Ron (Blackduiker). Does this zoo satisfy the reviewer’s Inner-3-Year-Old by featuring his lifelong favorite animals, giraffes and elephants? The Gibbon Conservation Center in Santa Clarita, California, has only gibbons. Gibbons are mighty cool, so it was fine that there were no giraffes or elephants. If they had called the place the Gibbon, Giraffe, and Elephant Conservation Center and failed to have giraffes and elephants then there would have been trouble. The gibbon center is not a traditional zoo. It is a gibbon research and breeding facility that now offers limited access to the public via tours on weekends. It was not built to exhibit animals to the public. The late founder, Alan Mootnick, was interested in gibbons and built this facility where he pioneered gibbon husbandry and did world-class behavioral and taxonomic research on the gibbons. He showed that the Hoolock’s gibbons were 1) two species and 2) a distinct genus of gibbons. Does this zoo have any animals that would excite a zoo aficionado? On the date of my visit the gibbon center had five gibbon species with a total of 43 individual gibbons. The species at the center were: pileated, Eastern Hoolock’s, Javan, white-cheeked, and siamang. Siamangs are fairly common in the zoo world, but the other species are very uncommon in North American zoos and thus a zoo aficionado would likely very much enjoy seeing some of them. Does this zoo have any immersion exhibits that would impress a zoo aficionado? Does this zoo have any good basic exhibits? The gibbon center is like the behind-the-scenes and off-exhibit breeding area of any major zoo. The cages are very basic. They are full of enrichment items and brachiation space for the gibbons. They are not attractive immersion exhibits, nor were they designed to be. Does this zoo have any elements that make it particularly family friendly? We went on the guided tour of the relatively small facility that went for about 2 hours. Alma, our guide and one of the keepers and managers of the facility, was an excellent guide. She lucidly described gibbon social structure, anatomy, natural history, diet, husbandry, and conservation, and pointed out these subjects in the gibbons as we watched them. We watched gibbons doing dazzling acrobatic leaps and twirls. I learned that every gibbon species has an alarm call for birds of prey. Gibbons sleep on branches and do not build nests. Like humans, gibbons have monogamous pair bonds and form family groups with several of their children. At age six or seven gibbons are slowly pushed out of their families to go out on their own. The climax of the tour was getting a surround-sound concert of gibbon singing as the siamangs, Eastern Hoolock, and white-cheeked gibbons hooted and called. It was genuinely amazing. It was also amazing to watch a family group of six white-cheeked gibbons (parents and 4 offspring) bouncing, swinging, twirling, and whirling around. The gibbons are fed eight times a day to mimic natural foraging. The tour group had people of all ages from toddlers to senior citizens, and everyone was enthralled with the gibbons and the tour. Would a zoo aficionado like this zoo enough to go out of his or her way to visit it? I lived in Southern California for many years before I visited the Gibbon Conservation Center. It is out in the boonies of Santa Clarita, but very much worth the effort to get there. I wish that I had visited sooner. Any zoo aficionado would likely find watching the gibbons and seeing the unusual collection of species very much worthwhile. Probably just about anyone would, actually. The conditions are very basic. There is only a Porta-Potty for a rest room. The experience is magical though when the apes of the sky go into acrobatic action and start singing.