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Fundraiser aims to find new land for center

About 350 attend Saugus center's event.

Posted: April 13, 2008 12:59 a.m.
Updated: June 14, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Gibbon baby Cantor holds on to mommy Ricky during Breakfast with the Gibbons on Saturday morning.

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Standing in front of the hundreds of curious visitors on the warm Saturday morning, Alan Mootnick talked about what he knows best: apes.

As gibbons swung from the dangling ropes in their cages, Mootnick explained the small lesser apes' diet, as well as the increasing threats to the gibbons and how his conservation center has contributed to the survival of the endangered primate.

After all, The Gibbon Conservation Center in Saugus, which Mootnick founded, is home to 34 gibbons, making it the largest group of gibbons in the Western Hemisphere.

Mootnick's talk was part of the center's 32nd annual fundraiser, Breakfast with the Gibbons, which strives to raise awareness about the endangered species. The proceeds from this year's breakfast, silent auction and donations, will go towards finding a new property for the habitat as the increasing development around the center's current location could become a threat to the gibbons.

Mootnick, who serves as the center's director, said the event brought in more than 350 visitors, a sharp increase from last year's 125. He was thrilled by the amount of support and said it was really great to be able to educate the people about the endangered species.

Along with the question and answer session led by Mootnick, visitors spent their morning watching the gibbons interact inside their cages.

Damian and Blair Carroll and their 2-year-old daughter, Molly, watched the Northern White-Cheeked Gibbons play around their space.

The Van Nuys residents, who made their first trip to the center on Saturday, said the experience seemed like a fun thing to do for their daughter.

Similarly, Lori Wolf of Studio City visited the conservation center with her 2-year-old son, Bruno. "I'm trying to expose my son to animals in a more natural environment," she said, as a cage full of gibbons snacked on vegetables.

To teach the crowd about gibbons, the center's volunteers mingled with guests. Julie Cash, a volunteer primate keeper, said it was "awesome" that the hundreds of guests from all over the Los Angeles area trekked to the conservation center. She hoped that the people who attended who be able to learn not just about the center but about what is affecting the gibbons in the wild.

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