Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Alan Mootnick, A Savior Of The Gibbon (A Small Ape) Species

Dear Reader, The following brief talks were written by Alan Mootnick (1951 - 2011), who became one of the world's foremost experts on gibbons and arguably their greatest rescuer, despite having no formal gibbon training. Gibbons are fighting for their survival as their natural habitat, Asian rain forests are being decimated by developers. In 1980, Alan started the Gibbon Conservation Center (GCC) in the Los Angeles area, where at any one time today about 40 gibbons flourish, some of which are returned to the wild.  And Alan spoke on their behalf and he wrote numerous articles about them and travelled to their native areas to persuade governments to protect their habitats. The following was shared with us by Gabriella Skollar (Gabi), GCC's Head Primate Caregiver and Research Assistant, explaining in his own words what caused him to become their rescuer and it shares as well his interesting outlook on life.

"As a child I grow up wanting to be the son of Tarzan. When I was nine I saw and heard my first gibbon. When I closed my eyes and listened to their voices it made me feel as if I was in the forest. I told my mother that I would like to care for gibbons. She said that I was a very special person and their was nothing in this world I could not do, and that I would need enough money to support my interests and not hurt anyone on the way. I believed her. Now I care for the largest group of gibbons in the Western Hemisphere. We house the rarest gibbon species whose numbers are as low as 3000 on the island of Java and we were the first to ever breed them in the USA. We are the only place in the world where you can see all four genera of gibbon.

At a young age I realized that life is very short and if you stand still for to long it will pass you by. I knew I could always count on myself, and generally worked 7 days a week 16 hours a day. I felt that some day it would be easier and that years from now I would not feel the pain it took for me to complete my dream. Yes, it has been a hard road for me to get to where I am in life.  I always felt if someone said something could not be done that no one tried hard enough. I have learned from negative situations and to turn them into positive ones and educated others from what I have learned. I publish what I have what the gibbons have taught me in scientific journals and travel to Asia to assist zoos and rescue center with the captive management of their gibbons. It is very kind of you to give this award to me and my gibbon friends and I thank you very much."

"When I was seven years old I heard my first gibbon vocalize at a zoo.  We were unable to locate where the sound was coming from and later when I was nine I was able to see and hear this magnificent creature.  At that time Tarzan was a TV program I enjoyed watching and wished I could be Tarzan's son.  I also wanted to have my own zoo.  My parents allowed me to obtain some fancy pigeons.  My mother said there was nothing in this world that I could not do as long as it did not hurt any one and I got a job to support my project.  So I got a job and built my own cages.  I learned to find recycled material which made it much more affordable.  I never realized when I was young the amount of time my mother lost from work, taking around to places for my animals or car related projects, that she could of bought me what I needed with the money she lost from working.  She did not want to buy the animals or cars for me.  She probably felt that unless I used my own money, I would never appreciate the value of my project.  Shortly after I obtained my first pigeons I got a rabbit.  After realizing my interest in breeding pigeons, my mother would not allow me have more than one rabbit at a time.  By the time I was 20 years of age I started creating my menagerie with pheasants.  By the time I was in my mid thirties I had a small private zoo that was not opened to the public.  I got my first gibbon when I was in my early twenties.  I decided to wait that long for I new I was not able to build such a large enclosure for them, where I was living.  I decided that it would be better if I specialized and placed I all of the animals in zoos or with qualified breeders.  I now have the second largest populations of gibbons in North America with the largest library on gibbons in the world.  I have always enjoyed searching for what could not be found and have enjoyed the constant gaining of knowledge on gibbons.

When I was 15 my mother died and later when I was 18 my father died.  I was very disappointed that such nice people were taken away.  I later realized that the good people who have learned what they need to know leave early.  Because of my vast interests in life, and the loss of my parents I felt that I would like to do as much as I can before I leave.  My parents did not get to do everything that they wanted and I worked as hard as I could to achieve my goals.  I owe so much to my parents for allowing me to grow in the many directions that I did.  I always realized that value of money and remember one of my first jobs of taking the neighbors trash out twice a week for 10 cents.  Even today I pick up money I see on the ground for it reminds me of where I came from."

A little bit about Alan, written also by him.


"I am soft spoken, calm, positive attitude, listen during conversation, concerned for others well being, together, and have a great deal of energy. I value honesty, in myself and others. I have a strong outlook on life and feel I can make the world a better place. I have a strong passion searching for and saving what is rare. In the past I have been told that I look like Jim Croce (musician from the 1970’s). I have a middle eastern look with a muscular physique without having to lift weights.  I  enjoy working outdoors with nature and building structures. I enjoy searching for and collecting antique Brittany furniture, American art pottery, and metal garden furniture. I enjoy lecturing and writing scientific manuscripts. It is nice to share with others what we have learn in life to make it a better place for other living things."

"I believe it is important to give more and take less. To help others understand why they are here.  Be good to others and make this world a better place.  I feel there is more out there than what we can see. We have lost our ability to communicate without speaking. We need to listen to life, it has a lot to tell us."

He was very unique. There were time, when it was difficult to work with him, he expected as much from you as from himself. I am glad I found him. I learned from him, that I can do anything if I really want to do it, but I have to start it today, and not wait for a better time, and I learned from him that it is OK to be different. I will never forget him.


Dear Reader, To learn more about the Gibbon Conservation Center, please visit

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