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Siamang travels 3,200 miles to meet her match in Seattle

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. Diana Ross and Lionel Richie. Sam and Bagus. Some duets are timeless.

For newly matched siamangs Sam and Bagus (bah-GOOSE), it’s only been a week and yet somehow it’s like they’ve been together forever.

Sam and Bagus are an instant pair! Photo by Carolyn Sellar/Woodland Park Zoo.

Sam lost his mate here at Woodland Park Zoo last year when our geriatric female Briony passed away. Across the country, Bagus lost her long-time mate at Palm Beach Zoo. A siamang’s social life is naturally structured around being in a bonded pair. Though Sam’s and Bagus’s keepers gave them all the TLC two lone siamangs could ask for, we all knew that what they needed most was to be part of a pair again.

Sam and Bagus were well matched on paper. We work with other accredited conservation zoos through the Species Survival Plan to track the genetics of endangered species, such as siamangs, in our care. This way we can collaborate on matchmaking, finding pairs that are right for breeding or companionship. But animals have their own personalities and just because a match works on paper, doesn’t mean it’s meant to be. That part would be up to Sam and Bagus.

For a chance at a new life with a new partner, Bagus traveled more than 3,000 miles on the nation’s longest direct flight, Miami to Seattle. When she arrived in Seattle, she was greeted by her Woodland Park Zoo keepers who instantly went to work to make her feel at home. After clearing standard quarantine, it was time for Sam and Bagus to finally meet.

We always take it slow when introducing animals to each other. Keepers started Sam and Bagus off by setting up what we call a “howdy” introduction, where they can safely interact through a barrier, in this case some mesh screening. Right away, Bagus presented to Sam, a clear “hello” signal! Sam reached through the barrier to touch her fur, a clear “hey” in return. Then Sam started pulling at the screen as if to say “thanks, keepers, but we won’t be needing this anymore!”

By day two the siamangs were sharing the same physical space. Right away we saw positive signs of a bond in the making. They share food and groom each other, and seem to always be by the other’s side.

Soon the two will head outdoors to explore the treetops together. Up in the canopy, they’ll develop their song. A siamang duet is a symphonic call that can be heard up to two miles away and can last up to 20 minutes. It strengthens their bond and declares their territory, territory that is all too quickly disappearing in the wild.

The largest of the gibbon species, siamangs are native to forests of Asia that are being destroyed at alarming rates as human development and agriculture expand. Know that when you come to visit Sam and Bagus, your admission or membership helps support our field conservation partners working to save gibbons and other apes from extinction.

We won’t let the siamang’s song be silenced in the wild. Every note we hear from Sam and Bagus will strengthen that resolve.


Susan Parish said…
Love naturally. Perfect. Thank you for this story...