Vadtha ni – the Gibbon Temple
This new exhibit for northern white-cheeked gibbons was opened in 2022.
Ostrava has been keeping this gibbon species since 1978. All this time, this rare primate has inhabited relatively confined quarters lacking natural vegetation. Their old house dates back to 1966, is now completely inadequate and awaits demolition. Now the gibbons have lived to see new and above-standard facilities that offer them much more space, mature trees and overall conditions important for them to express their natural behaviour.
The name, Vadtha ni, means the Gibbon Temple in Lao. The structure is partly rendered as an abandoned temple that is gradually becoming overgrown with vegetation. This is to suggest that the greatest threat to these arboreal (tree-bound) animals is the activities of humans, who are deforesting and taking over areas of the native primary forest. Illegal hunting is also a direct threat. Conversely, an abandoned and unused structure, even an ancient temple, can be taken back by Mother Nature and slowly overgrown by the forest. Gibbons do not have to disappear from the face of the Earth: It is not too late. The gibbon temple is a metaphor, a kind of tug-of-war between humanity and nature. Actually, the forest as such is the gibbon temple and the last refuge of the primates.
The northern white-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys) is found in the tropical evergreen forests of northern Vietnam and Laos. These gibbons live in family groups consisting of one male, one female and their young. The animal can move in the canopy by means of its long forelimbs, referred to as brachiation. The male is black in colour, with white cheeks. The female is yellow-brown with white and black markings on its head. Gibbons mark their territory by vocalisation, which is amplified by a small throat sac. The female gives birth to one young, which is initially coloured like the mother. After six months, it changes colour to black. Adolescent females’ coats change back from black to yellow-brown. The northern white-cheeked gibbon is one of the most endangered gibbons and is red-listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.
The hog deer (Hyelaphus porcinus porcinus)
A member of the smallest deer species, it owes its name to its rather stocky build and, as a deer, the unusual way of running with its head down. Even when walking slowly, it nods its head from side to side, so that at first sight it resembles a wild boar. The deer is bound to tall grass in the floodplains of the large South Asian rivers (Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra or Mekong). It avoids forests and groups of trees, found usually alone or in groups of up to 3 animals. Once a very abundant species, it has become rare in recent years, mainly due to the flood control of rivers (dams), as a result of which floodplains and savannahs are becoming overgrown with forest. It is red-listed as Endangered by the IUCN.
The hog deer can be watched as they graze the outdoor enclosures.
In addition to gibbons and deer, there are more species on display in here, not kept in the collection previously: the swinhoe’s striped squirrel (Tamiops swinhoei), the vietnamese crocodile lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus vietnamensis) and the canton danio (Tanichthys albonubes).