Omar swung through his recent health check with flying colours! 

Here at Perth Zoo, we’re experts when it comes to gibbon care and our gorgeous old man Omar is the living proof!

Javan Gibbons, also known as Silvery Gibbons, are a rare and endangered primate species, known for their fluffy hair and long limbs – you will have seen them brachiating (swinging!) across the ropes on Gibbon Island. 

Like all animals at Perth Zoo, Omar has an individualised welfare plan made up of enrichment activities, training, a specialised diet and, of course, regular health assessments.

Thanks to positive reinforcement training, the 49-year-old  small ape was able to be hand-injected, carefully transported across the lake and taken up to the vet hospital for his examination under general anaesthetic. 

Omar is one of the oldest gibbons on record, so vets conducted thorough checks of his overall body condition, dental health, eye health, joint mobility and cardiac health including an echocardiogram, or heart ultrasound. 

Perth Zoo Veterinarian Rebecca Vaughan-Higgins said: “Omar is blind in one eye, but we are pleased that it’s not stopping his ability to swing through his habitat or even catch enrichment and food that his keepers throw to him.  

“He is elderly, so it’s important that we closely monitor his joint health and mobility to ensure we are giving him the targeted care he deserves. 

“While completing a dental examination, we did find one troublesome tooth that needed to be extracted. 

“But overall his procedure was smooth, and he is looking healthy for his age which is a testament to the excellent daily care his keepers provide.”

Omar arrived at Perth Zoo in 2018 from Belfast Zoo Northern Ireland and has been a major contributor to the overall coordinated program for gibbons, having sired nine offspring, one of which was released to the wild in Java. 

His descendants live all over the world, with his youngest son Asta born in 2020, lives right here with him on our Gibbon Island. 

Perth Zoo leads the Australasian breeding programs for both the Javan Gibbon and White-cheeked Gibbon, ensuring there are genetically diverse populations of these beautiful species within zoos. 

In fact, we hold the International ‘studbook’ for the species which means our teams are deeply involved in managing gibbons in zoos around the world and contributing to in-situ conservation projects in Java and Vietnam. 

Omar is one of only 113 endangered Javan Gibbons living in the safety of zoos around the world. 

Here, he enjoys a safe habitat, plenty of enrichment, a bonded family and the best quality food. But sadly, life for a Javan Gibbon in the wild is much tougher. 

Populations of this ape species are steadily declining due to the illegal wildlife trade, with many gibbons used as props for tourists to take photos. 

Next time you travel overseas, please avoid having photos with animals in tourist hotspots as this may be supporting the illegal wildlife trade. 

Learn more about how we support Javan Gibbons through our Wildlife Conservation Action program.