Today we would like to remember a very special gibbon named Blackie. Blackie began his life in the jungles of Thailand where he was caught and sold to a wildlife dealer when he was just a baby. Shortly after this traumatic experience he was sold to a lab in the northern United States before being transferred to the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP) of the New York University Medical Center. Blackie was experimented on for 20 years and one of the experiments resulted in him losing his hearing. He did find love during this time with another lab gibbon named Penny and the two had multiple children together.
Then, in 1984, Blackie’s luck changed and he began a new life with his mate and their infant daughter E.T. here at IPPL. The family quickly settled into their peaceful new surroundings at the sanctuary and were allowed to raise E.T. until she reached sexual maturity and paired with one of our other residents, Donny. Blackie and Penny remained in a loving relationship until she passed away in 2006. After a few years of bachelorhood Blackie once again found love with a rambunctious new gibbon named Chloe in March of 2010. The two new lovebirds spent a significant amount of their day wrestling, grooming one another and singing at the top of their lungs (beautifully on Chloe’s part but rather off-key on Blackie’s).
On the morning of September 14th the animal care staff noticed that Blackie wasn’t his normal chipper self. He was extremely lethargic and would only eat if he was hand fed by one of his caregivers. Our vet rushed out and helped him be more comfortable while they awaited his blood test results. The next morning Blackie was awake and alert but unable to move. Dr. Ohlandt immediately came back out and discovered that Blackie’s heart rate was elevated and showing signs of atrial fibrillation. He passed away peacefully surrounded by the staff that lovingly cared for him on a daily basis. At the age of 61, Blackie was one of the oldest living gibbons, if not the oldest, in the United States.
Blackie will forever hold a special place in the heart of the staff, members and visitors to IPPL. Everyone has stories of his playful demeanor and adorable ballerina-esque dance routines, his off-key singing and lightning like speed whenever he was offered a tasty treat (or saw a hat he decided would look better on him than the original owner). The animal care staff will always tell stories of how loving and sweet he would be while getting back scratches, and how on one of his birthdays all he wanted to do was play catch with the special food they created for him rather than eat it. Shirley will always talk about how he was a wonderful father and how amazing it was to watch him reveal his personality over the 36 years he lived here. Even though he is gone, Blackie is a gibbon that will never be forgotten and all of us here at IPPL are simply happy to say that we got to spend even one day with this extraordinary soul.