White-Handed Gibbon
(Hylobates lar)

Agile Gibbon
(Hylobates agilis)

Gibbons are primates. But they are not monkeys; they are apes, and our closest relative living at the Bowmanville Zoo.  There are 13 species of gibbons. All gibbons are found in the rainforests of Asia.

Gibbons are mostly vegetarians feeding on fruit, leaves and shoots, but they also eat spiders, lizards and catch flying birds as they speed through the tree tops, leaping huge distances. Their method of swinging is called brachiation. You will be amazed when you see how easily they swing and how fast. Gibbons are masters of the jungle canopy, swinging from branch to branch for distances of up to 50 ft, at speeds as high as 55 km. They can also make leaps of up to 26 ft. They are the fastest and most agile of all tree-dwelling animals.

Currently Bowmanville Zoo has a pair of white handed gibbons, Penelope and Tyler .

Facts & Myths

  • Gibbons all come from the rainforests of southeast Asia. They are endangered due to habitat loss, mostly the result of palm oil plantations. You can help by avoiding products with Palm oil. Ask for Canadian grown vegetable oil instead. Avoid tropical hardwoods and use sustainably logged Canadian hardwoods instead. By supporting Canadian agriculture and forestry you can help gibbons . Think Local — Act global!
  • The largest gibbons are the Siamangs who are the size of a child! Here at Bowmanville our white handed gibbons are much smaller . The male and female are different colours, the male, Tyler, is black and Penelope, his mate, is white!
  • The Gibbons have a noisy whooping chorus they use to bond together as a pair or raise the alarm with. It is designed to be heard over great distances across the rainforest . You can hear their calls from all over the zoo and in the quiet of evening as far as downtown Bowmanville!
  • Gibbons come in lots of different colours, black, yellow, white and brown.