Gibbon Conservation Center to move?

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. Alan Mootnick is a self-taught expert on Gibbons, a type of endangered ape. He also runs the Gibbon Conservation Center in Santa Clarita.

"We have 34 gibbons at this location," says Mootnick. "I grew up wanting to be Tarzan's son. So, I started working at the age of 9, trying to build my own zoo."

Mootnick has devoted his life to the study of gibbons and he says their behavior is eerily similar to our own.

"Quite often the female dominates the male; especially when she's lactating, her hormones change and everyone watches out for mom," says Mootnick.

Mootnick says these endangered animals maneuver through the forest at about 35 miles per hour, leaping 50 feet at a time. Mootnick also says they have territorial calls that announce to their neighbors where they live.

"I still find a lot of enjoyment hearing them sing every day," says Mootnick.

The conservation center may soon call a housing development its newest neighbor. Mootnick says the development could include 300 single family homes.

"So, the gibbons would be stressed with the construction, but I'm also concerned the gibbons could die from the dust," says Mootnick.

One gibbon, a 7-year-old ape named Chester, died from Valley Fever earlier this year. Mootnick blames his death on the dust kicked up by a Southern California Edison project which sits 500 feet from the center.

The project is the first phase of a $1.8 billion project that will bring renewable energy from windmills in Tehachapi to homes across Southern California.

"They're using helicopters as cranes and they're quite noisy. It scares the gibbons tremendously. Even just a little bit of stress can be monumental to them," says Mootnick.

Mootnick even says he has noticed a change in the weather over the past 28 years. He says extreme summer heat is also a stress on the gibbons. In fact, he says high temperatures was responsible for one pregnant gibbon's heat stroke.

"I had to rush her and revive her, and she lost the infant unfortunately," said Mootnick.

Mootnick is searching for a new home for the Gibbon Conservation Center; possibly in cooler Ventura County.

"We're trying to raise between $500,000 and $1 million to get a larger parcel of land," says Mootnick, hoping for more land to roam and more songs to sing.

The center is a nonprofit organization.

A fundraiser is scheduled for October 19.


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