Farewell to Bono, Sequoia Park Zoo’s White-handed gibbon


Sequoia Park Zoo staff wishes to notify the community and friends of the Zoo that our longtime resident Bono, a White-handed gibbon who has lived at the Zoo since 1984, has moved to the Santa Barbara Zoo.  Bono was born at Yerkes Primate Lab at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and came to Eureka at the age of two, for the purpose of pairing with Joh-leen, a young female who was born and raised here. Gibbons live in lifelong monogamous pairs, and these two gibbons were closely bonded. They shared their exhibit and lived together for 35 years, along with a core group of dedicated animal caretakers, fellow zoo residents and many zoo visitors over the decades. Regulars and residents of the neighborhood enjoyed hearing them sing their duet most mornings, watched them play and groom with one another, and swing about the exhibit in their powerful yet graceful way, which is so unique to gibbons.

Bono (right) & Joh-leen (left)

In August, Joh-leen passed away after many months of illness and treatment (read full article here). When it became apparent that she might not survive her condition, Zoo staff reached out to the zoo community about the likelihood of finding a new mate for Bono, which is no small task given the nature of their social structure. White-handed gibbons are a species which is cooperatively managed under the auspices of a Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, in which select species are managed among member zoos for long term genetic viability and welfare. The Gibbon SSP responded to the death of Joh-leen rapidly, and helped us determine that the best option would be to send Bono down to Santa Barbara Zoo, where an older female there recently lost her companion as well.

While this is a significant loss to Sequoia Park Zoo at this time, his welfare is our top priority, and Zoo staff are excited for the next chapter of Bono’s life with a new companion to live with, in the beautiful and expansive natural habitat at Santa Barbara Zoo. Future development phases in the Zoo’s master plan will focus on replacing the oldest exhibits with modern habitats, including a new gibbon exhibit where the old bear grotto currently sits. The current gibbon exhibit will be evaluated for use by a different species that fits within our Institutional Collection Plan. For more information and to view the Sequoia Park Zoo Master Plan, click here.