SUMMERVILLE — Nobody wants to use a term like “monkey around” to describe a gibbon. But when it comes to romance, the courtship of Mia has been one swinging soap opera.
Six months after the International Primate Protection League decided to make a contest of which of four prospective mates the newly arrived gibbon would choose and four months after the voting ended, Mia continues to throw everyone for a loop. She has kept top vote-getter, fun-loving Louie Louie at arms length. She quit making eyes at “bad boy” Maynard, turned a cold shoulder to toughie Gus and sweetie Spanky. She’s now getting snuggly with non-contestant Thai, a “beautiful light-brown and blond gibbon that looks a little like Mia’s former mate, Cookie Man,” said Tina McCoy of the league.
So who among the few hundred people who voted in the contest will win a rare tour of the league’s private sanctuary outside Summerville?
The long-awaited winner simply will be drawn at random, McCoy said.
Gibbons are the long-armed, graceful acrobats of Asian primates, known for their reverberating, singsong whooping. They swing and somersault like trapeze artists and live mostly off the ground.
The league, which works with primate conservationists and sanctuaries in 31 countries, keeps more than 30 rescued and unreleasable gibbons in the sanctuary at its headquarters. It’s the only sanctuary for gibbons in the country, and one of the few in the world.
Gibbons mate for life, and the female does the picking. So when 23-year-old Mia arrived from Mississippi’s Jackson Zoo last spring, part of getting her settled was allowing her to select a mate among the neutered males. And the league decided to ask people to vote for their favorite among the four prospects.
Little did they know.
Mia and Thai made “an instant connection,” McCoy said. Well, for the time being, anyhow. They like to sit near each other in their adjacent enclosed runways to eat, reach out or wiggle their, um, tushes.
“Finger crossed, it looks good!” McCoy said.
But Mia might not get the last laugh. Louie Louie has taken up with Kendra, Thai’s sister.
“They are constantly grooming ... playing, sitting close together. It is the happiest I have seen him since Michelle,” McCoy said.
Michelle? Well, nobody wants to tattle here.
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