The Santa Barbara Zoo is welcoming Bono (pronounced BOH-no), a 37-year-old, male white-handed gibbon, to Santa Barbara. Bono comes to the Santa Barbara Zoo from the Sequoia Park Zoo, where he lived since 1984.
Bono will be a companion to the Santa Barbara Zoo’s elderly female gibbon Jasmine, who just turned 42. Both Jasmine and Bono recently lost their companions, and they were matched by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which collectively manages species in their accredited zoos.
“Gibbons are social creatures and live in lifelong monogamous pairs,” said Dr. Julie Barnes, the zoo’s vice president of Animal Care and Health. “We have been looking for a companion for Jasmine since her elderly male mate Gulliver passed away in 2016.
“After losing her younger companion, Jari, last year, we’re hopeful Bono will be a wonderful match. We look forward to Jasmine and Bono living out their golden years here with us at the Santa Barbara Zoo”
Bono, whose parents were named Sonny & Cher, was born at Yerkes Primate Lab at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., and moved to the Sequoia Park Zoo at the age of two, to pair with Joh-leen, a young female gibbon at the time.
Bono and Joh-leen shared their exhibit and lived together for 35 years, until August when Joh-leen passed away after many months of illness and treatment.
Bono will join Jasmine, who arrived at the Santa Barbara Zoo in 1979. She is an extremely long-lived gibbon at age 42, and has been diabetic for the last three years. Her diabetes is currently managed with oral medication and dietary management.
“Since Bono arrived, Jasmine’s been exhibiting positive behaviors I’ve never seen before in the 15 years I’ve worked with her. We are happy to see her so engaged,” says senior keeper Heather Leith.
The white-handed gibbon has a small body size which causes it to be classified as a lesser ape. Their arms are relatively longer than their legs, which allows rapid movement through the forest canopy. They can be either black or buff-colored and have white hands and feet, thus the name.
Found in Thailand, the Malaysian peninsula and north Sumatra, they spend their entire lives in the tall trees of tropical rainforests. They eat fruit, young leaves, and a few invertebrates, depending on availability, and show a preference for fleshy, sugary fruit and figs.
Gibbons define their territory by loud singing and spectacular gymnastics. Destruction of the rainforests and poaching are the primary threats to their survival.
The Santa Barbara Zoo is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily; general admission is $19.95 for adults, $11.95 for children ages 2-12, and free for children under 2. Parking is $11. Visit www.sbzoo.org.