Zoo Babies 2: Raising Baby Iwani

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This is the remarkable story of Baby Iwani, a siamang gibbon rejected by his mother at six weeks old and of Christine Tintinger, a senior primate keeper who becomes his mother, hand-raising him for a year.   Every day their bond grows stronger, until eventually the day arrives Christine has been dreading … she has to give Iwani back to his parents.  

Baby Iwani and his sister, Iberani were born at Auckland Zoo in the summer of 2003.  Twin siamangs are rare, normally they only give birth to one, so two was a surprise to the keepers. 

Initially the mother was doing very well with two.  She had already been a mother a number of times before so Senior Primate Keeper, Christine Tintinger was confident of her mothering abilities. But suddenly at six weeks old the mother turned on the twins, rejecting both of them and biting the little girl’s leg, seriously injuring her.  The keepers tried unsuccessfully to get the mother to take her babies back, but she wouldn’t.  They needed feeding and the wound on the little girls leg needed attention.  So the decision was made to remove them from the parents. 

Auckland Zoo has a hands-off policy – which means that they don’t normally intervene to hand raise a baby if its mother rejects it.  Zoos worldwide are wary of hand-reared animals, they can grow up imprinted on humans, thinking they’re one of us.   Imprinted animals take a lot of baggage with them through life, they can’t read the signs of their own species, and often don’t mate so their value to the gene pool is lost.

At an emergency session, Auckland Zoo management decided to take the major step to hand raise the twins, primarily because they believed that the two  – Iwani and Iberani, would socialise and spend time together and avoid being imprinted on humans.  It was a decision that came under threat when sadly Iwani’s little sister, Iberani died.  Almost a year to the day Christine found herself a surrogate mother; she achieved her ultimate goal -of a happy, healthy and well-adjusted little siamang, fully accepted back into his family.  It was a time of joy and sadness for Christine … joy at the achievement of getting him back with his family but sadness at returning little Iwani after a year of being his mum.

 

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Promotional Trailer

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Production Details

Thanks to: Staff and animals at Auckland Zoo

Exec producer: Andrea Lamb

Series directors: Andrea Lamb, Maree Quinn

Post production directors: Penny Ashbrook, Maree Quinn

Researcher/production manager: Kylie Henderson

Narrator: Bill Kerton

Offline editors: Torrin Mathias, Christine Munro

Production assistant: Lucy Gamble

Camera: Hamish Wilson, Paul Clark, Tony Burrows, Simon Ellis

Sound: Nick Treacy, John Clark, Ant Nevison

Graphic design: Louis Hyman

Production accountant: Glenda Paterson

Funded by: TVNZ