Europe’s oldest lar gibbon Brian celebrates 60th Birthday

The fur coloring of the lar gibbon varies from black and dark-brown to light-brown, sandy colors. Image (C) Armathwaite Hall (with permission)

The Lake District Wildlife Park (in the U.K.) has recently celebrated the 60th birthday of one of its lar gibbons, Brian, who is the oldest of his species in Europe.

The Lake District Wildlife Park is committed to the conservation of many endangered species, including the lar gibbons (Hylobates lar), and is home to a family of the apes – Brian and his two children, Nobby and Sally.

Brian’s exact birth date is unknown, but his year of birth at the London Zoo is recorded as 1963. He arrived at the Lake District Wildlife Park in 2000 with his partner Sooty, mum of Sally and Nobby, who sadly passed away last year.

The life expectancy of a lar gibbon in captivity is just 44 years, so Brian is beating this record by some distance thanks to the care he receives at the wildlife park.

Lucy Dunn, Conservation Officer at the Lake District Wildlife Park tells Digital Journal: “We’re so happy to see Brian reach this milestone – and he’s still sprightly for his age! Our visitors adore our little lar gibbon family, and they live together as a cohesive unit. They all have their own individual characters, especially Brian!”

Dunn adds: “He loves venturing out when the sun is shining, but on colder days, he likes to stay in the warmth of his heated house – but he’ll keep an eye on everyone through the window! Nobby and Sally are very active and love swinging from branch to brand – also called brachiating. Nobby loves to sing from the treetops!”

Brian found fame in 2015 when videos of him running around his enclosure were meme-d by a visitor to the park – and the lar gibbon’s popularity has endured ever since.

As part of his birthday bash, Brian was presented with presents and a cake – and according to Lucy Dunn, this isn’t just a gift, but is also a vital part of his enrichment: “We love giving Brian birthday gifts to celebrate his age – we often gift boxes full of treats and cakes made from roast sweet potato, rice cakes, honey, banana and Bertolini beans. These are all vital – and tasty! – components of a lar gibbon’s diet.

Explaining the gibbon’s habits, Dunn says: “Unwrapping and investigating his gifts offers him vital mental stimulation – one year, we gave him a bottle with food inside and it was great to see him work out how to get to the food. He’s essentially foraging for his own food, replicating his experiences in the wild. However, Nobby and Sally sometimes get to his presents first!”

The preparations are already underway for Brian’s big birthday bash – staff at the park are busy making banners, paper mâché balloons, his special cakes, cards and presents. And long-time fans of Brian can get involved too – the park has invited fans to make him birthday cards that they can send in or hand-deliver to the 60-year-old. Lar gibbons are the smallest of the ape species and are endangered due to hunting. The gibbons originate from Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand. They can be seen swinging through forest canopies and trees both at the Lake District Wildlife Park, set on the 400-acre Armathwaite Hall estate, and in the wild.

Europe’s oldest lar gibbon Brian celebrates 60th Birthday
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