Gibbon Reported Pregnant By Immaculate Conception In A Japanese Zoo

A Gibbon tricked zookeepers with a baffling pregnancy in Japan, but a male Gibbbon kept next door found a way to mate with his female neighbor.

By Jessica Scott | Published

A gibbon baffled zookeepers in Japan when she randomly gave birth to a baby one day, in spite of having lived completely alone in her enclosure and not having mated with any males. But don’t get out the frankincense and myrrh just yet: according to CNN, this is not a real-life case of immaculate conception. Instead, it is a case of a couple of frisky apes finding a way to work around the barrier between them and, in the (almost) words of Jurassic Park’s Dr. Ian Malcolm, “life, uh, finding a way.”

The story began in 2021, when Momo, a 12-year-old white-handed gibbon at Nagasaki, Japan’s Kujukushima Zoo and Botanical Garden, surprised everyone with a baby seemingly out of nowhere. But, like all things scientific, there was a reasonable explanation. Only no one knew it until two years later. 

After a long search that may or may not have included asking around to see if any of the other gibbons had heard Momo talking about being visited by an angel gibbon asking about her carrying the child of a gibbon god, the baby gibbon (who doesn’t have a name yet) was given a DNA test. The results, it turned out, did not show any genetic material from any sort of divine ape being but showed that Momo had gotten closer to her next-door neighbor than anyone could have ever suspected.

The gibbon-next-door at Japan’s Kujukushima Zoo was named Itō and was of a different variety of gibbon called an agile gibbon. Both are endangered species but have different characteristics and physical traits – but not, apparently, a different idea of what makes a good mate. 

gibbon japan

While the male agile gibbon didn’t live inside the same enclosure as Momo, he did live in the enclosure adjacent to hers. But how, then, did the two of them get together?

Well, as it happens in all good star-crossed gibbon romance novels, the two lonely but amorous apes discovered one day that a hole in the steel plate divided their enclosures. One thing led to another, and that nine-millimeter hole turned out to be just big enough to channel their passion for each other into a bouncing baby who was born around seven months later, blowing the minds of everyone in Japan.

Despite the baby gibbon being a huge surprise, it has been very well taken care of at Japan’s Kujukushima Zoo and Botanical Garden. He or she now weighs around 4.4 pounds and is “growing healthily” as Momo showers the little one with attention and affection. She alone knew the baby was on its way, which makes the whole thing even more of a sweet surprise.

There is no news yet about when or if the baby gibbon will get to meet his rascally father gibbon that had Japan’s greatest minds scratching their heads for two years, but one thing that is for sure is that the zoo’s staff will be checking all the enclosures for holes from now on!