Thursday, April 10, 2008

Only in SCV: Before They're Gone...

If you’ve ever been at Lombardi Ranch early in the morning (don’t we all get a.m. hankerings for fresh corn now and then?), you may have heard melodic, haunting whoops and howls coming from the distance. It’s a sound--or a song--that you’d usually have to travel to Borneo to hear.

Gibbons, a group of lanky, acrobatic apes hailing from Southeast Asia, are responsible for the chorus. And the Gibbon Conservation Center[1] is responsible for the gibbons.

Gibbon vocalizations. Only listen with your volume turned pretty far down. If it's not playing properly in Blogger, click for the YouTube link.

On April 12, the GCC will be celebrating its 32nd Year. The public is invited to attend a fundraising breakfast and tour from 9:00 – 11:30am[2]. The event takes place at the center's Saugus facility that houses some critically endangered gibbons. All ten of the Javan Gibbons held in the United States reside at the center—in the wild, this species' total population stands at just 2,000 individuals. Attending the fundraising breakfast or making a donation, then, can do much for the conservation of the world’s gibbons. Apart from housing and breeding these animals, the center has a prolific record of peer-reviewed, scientific research[3]. Center founder Allen Mootnick, for example, has co-authored many papers on gibbon genetics, behavior, and social development.

There’s a twist, though.

As a non-profit, the Gibbon Conservation Center has always relied on grants and donations. However, recent fundraising efforts cite a need to relocate outside of Santa Clarita. From the website [emphasis is my own]:


The Gibbon Conservation Center needs to begin collecting funds now to purchase property in order to relocate. Encroaching local development will soon become a very real threat to the health and well-being of our gibbons. Stress from the sight and noise of construction, and microorganisms in the dust stirred up in earth moving, pose unacceptable and lethal dangers.

Such a move will be, by far, the greatest and most difficult undertaking GCC has ever faced. While maintaining the facility in its present location, we must find the additional funds to purchase property, obtain permits, build enclosures, offices and living space for the director and staff, then move the entire contents of the current facility. Most importantly, the safety and health of the gibbons during the move must be carefully planned for and assured. This move will take at least a year and a half, but we must begin immediately.

Our most urgent need is for at least 20 usable acres (or the funds to buy) in Los Angeles, Ventura, San Luis Obispo or Monterey County, or other mild climate more suitable for the gibbons.

The stretch of Bouquet Canyon where the center resides is about as rural as Santa Clarita gets. Housing is very low density and much open space remains. So, if even this area is feeling affected by construction and development, then we have reason #4,556 to seriously consider just how fast we’re growing as a City. The GCC is a wholly unique part of our community. I, like most Claritans, have tended to overlook this center--not necessarily a bad thing for disturbance-sensitive gibbons--but I'd hate to see it leave Santa Clarita.

From the website, Alan Mootnick's photo of a Pileated Gibbon with young. It's not just their voices that are haunting but their faces and expressions.

The Gibbon Conservation Center is trying to understand endangered apes before they’re gone from the wild, but it’s probably only a matter of time before this unique center is gone from Santa Clarita. Our tendency to sprawl into open spaces on the map is behind both losses.

[1]Their website. Or, you can call them at 661.296.2737
[2]More information can be found
here. Cost is $30 for adults, $15 for teens, $10 for kids and includes breakfast, tour, and silent auction.
[3]Some are in very prestiogous journals, like Genetics. List of
publications here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That little one looks like an alien!