Pickle Update

On the 18th September 2019, Pickle turns 7 years old. I still can’t quite believe it’s been 7 years since she was born, time certainly flies!


Why is Pickle the wrong colour?

As a female and being half a white cheeked gibbon, Pickle should be blonde in colour by now.

Female White Cheeked Gibbons go through 2 colour transformations in their life. They are born blonde so that they blend into their mothers hair, then at around 1 year old they change colour to black. They will be much more independent then and won’t spend as much time holding on to mum. Females will then change colour again at around 4/5 years old to blonde to signify that they will be ready to leave home soon and look for their own partner.

Pickle however is different, she is still black even though she is a 7 year old girl. This may be because Pickle is actually a hybrid gibbon. Her father is a pure Northern White Cheeked Gibbon (Laos) and her mother is an Agile/Muellers Gibbon (Vera) a hybrid of two species. Pickle is 3 subspecies of gibbon all in one. Muellers Gibbons don’t change in colour at all, but Northern White Cheeked Gibbons do. Also Pickle has been spayed at an early age so this may have affected her hormones which would help her to change back to the blonde colour at maturity.

White cheeked gibbon hybrid

What’s happening with Pickle now?

Pickle has now developed her large canine teeth and so the time has come for pushing forward with introductions to Laos, her father. The keepers have been letting Laos and Pickle explore each other’s outside enclosures whilst the other is shut in their house. This gives them a chance to get used to the enclosure for when they are finally put together.

Pickle was a bit nervous to start with but now she’s found her way around she can’t wait to get in there and explore. Laos on the other hand hasn’t been nervous at all and has actively been trying to look into Pickles house to see where she is.

The keepers have now also added an extra hammock in their outside enclosures to encourage them to sit next to each other a bit more and play. Pickle of course loves the hammock and started playing in it after about 5 minutes. Laos… not so much. He had a look, a sniff and decided he’s too grown up for that malarkey.

Hopefully his playful side will come out, it just may be when the keepers aren’t looking. He probably doesn’t want to let us see his silly side.

So what next?

Next is the big step… actually putting them together in the same enclosure with no mesh dividers. This is a huge step and one which we don’t take lightly. The last time they were in the same enclosure Laos took a bite out of Pickle’s bottom, which resulted in stitches. Hopefully now that she is bigger and much more confident this won’t happen.

We’re hoping to see some interaction between them- the best outcome would see some grooming of each other. This would show that they are comfortable with each other and aren’t threatened. At the very least we’d like to see them sitting near to each other, which would be a start.

For this step, myself and the heads of section will be looking from afar as we don’t want to disturb the introductions. When Pickle is startled she will often come to one of us if we are around and this won’t help with the introduction. She has known us the longest and therefore seeks comfort from us. We are crossing everything for this to work this time so that they can be together.

We don’t have a time frame for when this big step will be as its going to depend on if we see the appropriate interactions between them with the new hammocks in place, but hopefully it won’t be too long.

If you would like to know more about Pickles early years you can find my previous blog here. Or if you would like to help Pickle celebrate her 7th Birthday our new Amazon Wishlist has a few items on it which we know she would love!


About Ruth - Head Keeper

Ruth is the head keeper at Wingham Wildlife Park, having been with the park since 2008. When the park was first taken over all of the keepers looked after all of the species, and as such Ruth has a wide range of abilities with the animals here, giving her the right skill set as our head keeper. When she is out of the office (which is most of the time), she specialises in primates.