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Zoo Says Ape’s Mysterious Pregnancy Occurred Through a Glory Hole

Two years after wondering if their 12-year-old white-handed gibbon had pulled a Virgin Mary, zookeepers in Japan say they finally know how the ape got pregnant.

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A photo of a beige-colored white-handed gibbon climbing a tree with a small raven-colored baby holding onto it.
Photo: Setaphong Tantanawat (Shutterstock)

Japanese zookeepers have finally figured out how Momo, their 12-year-old white-handed gibbon, got pregnant even though she lived by herself and had never had a male visitor. The key? A literal hole in the wall.

Earlier this month, zookeepers at the Kujukushima Zoo & Botanical Garden in Nagasaki revealed that Itoh, a 34-year-old agile gibbon, was the father of Momo’s baby, Vice News reported. To identify Momo’s paramour, the zoo asked a researcher to compare the DNA from mom and baby’s hair and stool samples against that of four potential fathers.


For those of us who grew up on a diet of scandalous daytime talk shows, the story seems like something straight out of an episode of Maury. The only thing missing is Maury Povich reading “You are the father” while holding a brown envelope.

Zoo superintendent Jun Yamano told Vice that identifying Momo’s mischievous partner had taken so long because the gibbon was a protective mother.


“It took us two years to figure it out because we couldn’t get close enough to collect samples—she was very protective of her child,” Yamano said.

Figuring out who the baby gibbon’s father was proved to be the first clue in finding out how the pregnancy occurred. In the absence of surveillance footage, the zoo had to pay close attention to where Momo and Itoh were throughout the day. While they were never in the same cage together, they were in close proximity in an exhibition area at the zoo. Both gibbons took turns in the exhibition area, which happened to be right in front of Momo’s cage.

The only thing separating the cage from the exhibition area was a makeshift partition: a board with holes. According to Vice, Yamano explained that the hole, which measured a little more than a third of an inch (9 millimeters) in diameter, had permitted the apes’ rendezvous.

“We think it’s very likely that on one of the days that Itoh was in the exhibition space, they copulated through a hole,” the zoo superintendent stated.