Gibbon Attacks Toddler

In a Malaysian zoo, a siamang has attacked and severely injured a three-year-old boy. 

The siamang is the largest of the gibbons or "lesser" apes--as opposed to the better known "great" apes, including the chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas. This article lists the attacker at 38 kilos (84 pounds), which is probably a typo; the average for this species is under 30 pounds, though they may stand four feet tall or so as they waddle on the ground. They'd prefer to swing by their arms. 

The news report (linked below) gives no information on the reason for the attack, though all primates are potentially dangerous and can become aggressive for no obvious reason.

The most startling characteristic of the siamang, aside from biting zoo visitors, is its habit of inflating its neck to the size of a pumpkin and bellowing like a game show contestant imitating a pig. This sound can be heard by gibbons in the next neighborhood. 

'Tame' gibbon attacks boy at zoo - General - New Straits Times: "I was shocked and screamed. My husband, who at first did not realise what was happening, acted fast and held the gibbon's head. But it refused to let go of my son's thigh. The gibbon only let go when another visitor kicked its stomach."


  1. Here's an update, with a more plausible account of the gibbon's size and and more information about the child's injuries. There's also a reference to an orangutan attack I hadn't heard about.

  2. One meter deep waterway separates the siamangs from humans? No wonder there have been accidents. I first read about these guys in an animal encyclopedia when I was under 10 years old and I clearly remember a part about siamangs being the only apes that are NOT afraid of water, and that they would swim often and skillfully. That siamang enclosure is an accident waiting to happen- again.

    We have siamangs in the local zoo but they are separated by a much deeper moat and a concrete wall. No accidents thus far...

  3. I'm finding contradictory claims about their swimming ability. Some sources say they swim well, others that they're afraid of water. That picture of their moat seems to show a convenient path of pilings only slightly submerged.

    (I must have seen several dozen reports of different animals escaping from moated islands--tigers, gorillas, etc.)

  4. Well, keep in mind there would be crocodiles in their natural habitat, plus other unknown scary things for a tree-dwelling animal... maybe they don´t swim often in the wild but they have no trouble doing it in captivity?

  5. That's an interesting thought. We have certainly seen other animals learning from their circumstances and breaking out of the stereotyped behaviors we humans would like to impose on them.

  6. Dear Coconut
    Do you remember which book you read about swimming siamangs? This is exactly the topic of my PhD!! Was is a British or American boook?
    Thank you for your help,

  7. Hi Renato!

    The book was Spanish actually (I am from Mexico so the first books I read on animals were in Spanish, before I taught myself English XD)
    The book was volume 9 of a series on the world's wildlife called "Enciclopedia Salvat de la Fauna" and the author was famous Spanish zoologist Félix Rodriguez de la Fuente. Volume 9 was about Asian wildlife and had an entire chapter on primates- that's where I read the swimming siamang info for the first time. I am pretty sure I've read it elsewhere after that, though.

    Good luck with your PhD!

  8. Great, thank you A LOT for the information. I will try to get a copy of this book. I found a similar statement on swimming siamangs in a book on human evolution, without further details.
    Gracias y un buen dia!

  9. Dear Coconut
    Sorry to ask you back again. I am trying to get a copy of this volume, but there are different editions. I found for instance vol. 7 about Asia, published 1971. From which year is your edition?
    Kind regards,


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