Happy Birthday, Maui! Maui Gibbon was born on December 8, 1990, at the Maui Zoo. His parents were named Jade and “Boy.” Jade had reached the Maui Zoo from the Honolulu Zoo, and “Boy” had been a family pet of Sam Pryor, a retired Pan Am pilot.

Unfortunately, the Maui Zoo kept its gibbons in poor conditions and ran into problems with Dr. Betsy Lyons, the spunky USDA veterinary inspector. She told the zoo to shape up or close down! Despite the zoo’s being located on an island with many wealthy residents, the decision was made to shut down the facility. IPPL was asked to provide a home for Maui and his parents, and we agreed.

Once the zoo had decided to send the gibbons to IPPL, the complicated paperwork began. A donation agreement had to be signed and an itinerary and flights booked. The animals had to undergo TB testing and other health checks. Lucy Wormser of the Pacific Primate Sanctuary told us about Maui’s childhood in what she described as “substandard housing and poor nutrition” and added, “I remember when Maui Boy was born; his mother, Jade, cared for him carefully, and his father was attentive all through his growing up. Just the fact that they were all housed as a family saved them from despair.”

Maui Three arrival 1996

We first met Maui and his parents in the cargo area of the Charlotte airport.

The transfer took place on March 8, 1996. It was a very long trip from Hawaii to the mainland and Mary Chumbley, who worked for American Airlines, made the travel arrangements. Mary even accompanied the gibbons on their long journey. The plane landed in Dallas, Texas. The gibbons next flew to Charlotte, Norht Carolina, with Mary still keeping an eye on them. 


On the morning of March 15, 1996, Betty Brescia (who still helps out at IPPL) drove the electric blue Ford Explorer to Charlotte. There, a team consisting of myself, Lesley Miller, and Anita La Caruba left the car and went to the airport cargo area, where we anxiously awaited the arrival of the Delta jet. We had brought grapes and other treats for the gibbons.


Maui Three in the van

March 1996: The Maui Three were loaded into the IPPL van, along with a boxes of pineapples.

The flight arrived on time. We were so thrilled to see the three crates and six bright eyes shining through the wire that covered the windows of the sky kennels. We loaded the crates and boxes of fresh Maui pineapples that Mary had sent into our van and headed back to IPPL Headquarters, where the animal caregivers who had not gone to Charlotte were anxiously awaiting our return. We released the three gibbons into their enclosures and they started to explore. The gibbons were all blond and just gorgeous and fit in from Day One. Sixteen years later, all are thriving.

We were very uncomfortable with Maui’s dad’s name, “Boy” (it has bad connotations in the southern United States), and asked a Hawaiian member for something more suitable. He selected the name Palu-Palu, which means “softly-softly” in the Hawaiian language.


Maui and Speedy

Maui (right) with his current companion, Speedy.

Maui, Palu-Palu, and Jade lived happily together until Maui reached sexual maturity, the age at which gibbon parents decided that it’s time for their offspring to leave. Maui lived for a while with Michelle, and they even produced a surprise baby, who was named Courtney and is still alive and well with IPPL. Although Maui had been a great dad, Courtney was attacked by her mother at 12 days of age and had to be removed from her care. Eventually, Michelle attacked Maui, as well, and we had to separate them. We looked for a new companion for Maui, and decided to try him next with Speedy, who was born at IPPL to a pair of former lab gibbons, Arun Rangsi and Shanti.  



Maui is still a handsome gibbon, full of aloha charm!

Maui and his mate Speedy now live happily together.