Ask the Zookeeper


Does your child have a question about an animal at the Santa Barbara Zoo? Post questions on our Facebook page ( If yours is published, you and your family get free tickets to the zoo. 

Ask the Zookeeper

New gibbon Jari is adjusting to her new home

By Heather

Senior Mammal Keeper

Ashley, age 10, asks us:  “Can you tell me about Jari, the new gibbon at the zoo?”

Jari (“JAR-ee”) is a white-handed gibbon with dark fur who arrived at the Zoo in March.
Photo contributed

Jari is a white-handed gibbon with dark fur who arrived at the zoo in March. Her name (“JAR-ee”) means “fingers” in Indonesian. She was born on Nov. 22, 2013, at the Jackson Zoo in Mississippi. Unfortunately, her mother was unable to care for her, so she had to be hand-raised by keepers.

White-handed gibbons stay with their family group for six to 10 years and depend on their moms to learn to forage, vocalize, groom, play, and be independent. Since Jari is only 3, she still has more to learn.

The Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ species coordinator for white-handed gibbons identified elderly female Kimmy at the Henson Robison Zoo in Springfield, Ill., as a foster mother for Jari. They lived together for two years until October 2016, when Kimmy died. Once again, Jari was on her own.

Here at the Santa Barbara Zoo, our elderly male Gulliver passed away in July 2016. Jasmine, an experienced mother who raised five offspring with Gulliver, was now alone. It was a perfect match.

I picked up Jari in Springfield and brought her here, and the two gibbons were introduced in their holding area. Jasmine was quite patient during these introductions. She obviously wanted to smell and touch Jari, who was curious, but standoffish. But after just a few days, we saw them sitting together and Jari was letting Jasmine groom her. They eventually started to play – and haven’t stopped.

Getting Jari onto Gibbon Island was more challenging. Gibbons are naturally afraid of water, and Jari had never seen anything like our exhibit, with the tall trees, ropes, and greenery. It took several weeks for Jari to brave crossing the bridge to the island. Now she runs across it!

Jari is a goofball, just filled with energy. Jasmine is attentive and keeps Jari in line when she becomes too rambunctious. Jasmine often sits up high where she can keep an eye on Jari, but the two can often be seen frolicking, grooming each other, or hanging out on the bridge.

Jari is a welcome addition to the zoo family.