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Mystery solved: Father of gibbon at Nagasaki Pref. zoo identified through DNA analysis

Momo the lar gibbon, left, and her offspring are seen in this photo provided by the Mori Kirara zoo.

SASEBO, Nagasaki -- Two years after a female lar gibbon that was kept alone in a cage at a zoo in this southwestern Japan city mysteriously gave birth in February 2021, the baby's father has finally been identified as an agile gibbon kept in an adjacent cage, the zoo announced on Jan. 30.

    The Saikai National Park Kujukushima Zoo & Botanical Garden Mori Kirara collected the hair and excrement samples of Momo the 12-year-old lar gibbon, her offspring, and four male macaques who could be the father in the autumn of 2022, and asked a Kyoto University researcher to analyze them. DNA testing revealed that Itou the 34-year-old agile gibbon was the father.

    Itou the agile gibbon, who has been found to be the father, is seen in this photo provided by the Mori Kirara zoo.

    Momo and Itou take turns going on display in the morning and afternoon, so there is no opportunity for direct contact between them, but the partition between the exhibit and the backyard was a perforated board with holes of about 9 millimeters in diameter. It is possible that the two might have mated through these holes, but the zoo apparently cannot make a firm conclusion.

    Following the birth, the zoo changed the partition to a steel plate with no holes. It has been determined that the offspring, which has now grown to an estimated weight of about 2 kilograms, is a male.

    (Japanese original by Hiroshi Watanuki, Sasebo Bureau)

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