Taronga’s primate keepers were very saddened to say goodbye to the Zoo’s much-loved Mueller’s Gibbon, Mary, today.
The undisputed Queen of Taronga, Mary was 57 years old, making her one of the oldest Mueller’s Gibbons in the world.
She’d been experiencing a range of age-related complaints in recent years which, despite the best treatment and care, had begun affecting her movement and quality of life.
Her condition had further declined in recent weeks and, after a thorough health and welfare assessment, keepers and veterinary staff made the difficult decision to put her to sleep.
Mary came to Australia in 1960 as an infant from Borneo and found a home at Taronga.
The grand old primate had many adventures during her long and colourful life. For many years she lived with her companion ‘Robinson’, swinging gracefully about the mighty fig tree on Gibbon Island.
After Robinson passed away in 1986, keepers tried to pair her up with other males, but Mary wasn’t interested. Unlike most primates, Gibbons mate for life.
Mary also liked to call the shots in her relationships with keepers. She enjoyed testing new keepers and was known to lock them in her exhibit by sitting on top of the doorway.
She could also be a sensitive little soul and loved nothing more than a groom and a scratch from keepers.
During a severe storm in 1990, Mary’s Morton Bay fig tree fell over with her still clinging to the branches. Instead of fleeing, Mary ran straight into the arms of her keeper, Paul Davies, grateful to see a friendly face after the ordeal.
Many will remember Mary for her early morning calls, which would echo throughout the zoo and herald the beginning of a new day at Taronga. Those who tried to record this sound usually walked away unsatisfied. Mary seemed to instinctively know what they were trying to do and would instantly go mute.
We hope that Mary’s interactions with staff and visitors contributed to an awareness and appreciation of her endangered species.
She touched the lives of many generations of keepers and visitors and her hauntingly beautiful song will never be forgotten.