In the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Helen Brach Primate House, he used to fling himself from artificial branch to artificial branch with one long, lone arm.
Covered in black fur with white tufts springing from his happy, alert face, the gibbon would hurl himself through the air with the same arm he would catch himself with split-moments later. Fling, catch, fling, catch, fling, catch, stop, eat something using his foot, fling, fling, catch, catch.
His name was Kien Nhan, and in 2005, one of his arms had to be amputated.
If I recall the story correctly from when I buttonholed a zookeeper back in 2007, Kien was trying to reach through the wire bars on the outside section of the gibbon enclosure to grab something some jerk zoogoer threw by the enclosure.
His arm got snagged.
I don’t want to think about what must have followed. I just want to think of the result, a happy inspiring gibbon fling catch fling catching himself through the air.
The one-armed gibbon with the locomotion so odd people studied it was one of my favorite parts of the Lincoln Park Zoo.
I’m using the past tense. As I found out during adventure day with the girlie on Sunday, Kien Nhan is no longer with us.
Relax. He’s at a different zoo.
In 2009, signifying that I really don’t go to the zoo often enough, my favorite primate was transferred to the Stone Zoo in Stoneham, Mass., as part of the White-cheeked Gibbon Species Survival Plan, according to an amazingly named New England-based local news site.
In an effort to bring back the critically endangered species, Kien was sent on the mother of blind dates, getting shipped halfway across the country to the land of chowdah, Kennedys and a hotsy-totsy blonde named Iggy with whom he would mate.
I was less pleased to find that a baby gibbon from 2014 was no longer mentioned. Sad.
The monkey house is still fantastic at the Lincoln Park Zoo, with fuzzy tamarins with faces like bats, wise-looking De Brazza’s monkeys and fluffball gray titi monkeys whose tails curl around each other’s as they sit together on the same faux branch.
Kids run to and fro, calling out when they see each new critter. Weary mothers follow after carting bags and abandoned jackets, reading aloud off the signs to tell the sometimes completely uninterested, sometimes entranced, never inbetween chilluns what each ape or monkey might be.
But Kien’s not one of them anymore. I’ll miss my favorite ape, even though it’s been a while. I’m glad he’s fling catching himself elsewhere in the world, with a few little apes of his own in tow.