Birth control failure isn’t just for humans, as an ape at the San Diego Zoo found out last week
Basically everyone got a big surprise last week, when an ape at the San Diego Zoo gave birth to a healthy baby even though she has been on hormonal birth control for years.
The San Diego Union Tribune reports that 37-year-old Eloise, a siamang (that’s a type of gibbon), suddenly had an infant. The endangered ape had already had six kids with her partner, the 35-year-old Unkie, the last in 2006. Since then, she’s been on birth control.
This might sound familiar: even though the pregnancy wasn’t planned, the zoo is overjoyed with the addition to the family. It’s the first siamang to be born at the facility in 12 years.
“We’re not certain why birth control didn’t work in this case, but as with humans, it is not uncommon for contraceptive failure to happen from time to time,” Jill Andrews, animal care manager at the San Diego Zoo, said in a statement. “Still, we are overjoyed — because any birth of an endangered species is a reason to celebrate.”
The zoo said that Eloise showed no signs of pregnancy, and that at 37, she’s quite old to be reproducing. Most members of her species have a lifespan of about 30 in the wild, and about 40 in captivity.
Eloise was on birth control because being with and mating with her monogamous partner is healthy for the animals, especially since they’re in captivity (uh, sound familiar?). Just as in the wild, the pair share a habitat with orangoutangs.
The parents of the internet had some pretty hilarious reactions to Eloise’s surprise pregnancy.
Like, someone please help her.
It had some folks worried about the efficacy of their own contraception method.
But mostly, it was just super relatable.
Oh, and someone had to throw in a little mock breastfeeding-shaming just to make it feel extra real.
Siamangs grow to be about three feet high and 30 pounds, and are found in the forests of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. They’re known for their odd throat sacks, which allow them to make unique sounds and calls. They’re on the list of endangered species — mostly because their habitat is being cleared away by loggers, but also because their babies are often stolen to be sold illegally as pets.
The zoo keepers don’t know the sex of the baby yet — siamangs are very protective of their young, and no one plans on bothering the pair for weeks to come.
“We’re just going to allow her to be a mama for right now,” he said.
The baby has also not been named at this point.
It’s certainly a time to celebrate the newborn, and also a time to celebrate that birth control works… most of the time.