Gibbons survive ice storm

  • Friday, February 21, 2014

Stefan Rogenmoser/Journal Scene Several fences were knocked down during the ice storm.


Limbs and branches knocked holes into a number of gibbon houses during the ice storm last week.

That was the news coming from the International Primate Protection League sanctuary in Knightsville after the ice storm caused power outages for more than two days.

Generators kept the gibbon houses at the necessary 65 – 70 F, IPPL Founder and Executive Director Shirley McGreal said.

This smallest species of apes is used to the warm climate of Southeast Asia. The 36 gibbons living at IPPL have been rescued from abusive labs and zoos around the world.

McGreal only used the generators for the gibbon houses and did not heat her own residence at the facility.

McGreal took IPPL’s six otters into her home to keep them safe and from escaping into the woods after their fences were knocked down.

“The six otters, they were in here,” McGreal said. “It was cold. There was no heat. It got to about 45 degrees in the office.

“None of the human places were heated because the gibbons come first here.”

While the animals are always first at IPPL, what seems to be the most miraculous story of the ice storm comes from John McGreal, Shirley’s husband.

He was driving the IPPL pickup truck around the facility and got out to move a branch that was in the roadway. Seconds after he exited the truck the top of a pine tree fell and crushed the truck cabin.

McGreal said her husband is lucky to be alive after the incident. She added that IPPL has had that truck for about 10 years.

“I don’t know if it’s fixable,” she said.

A group of about eight volunteers and a handful of staff members began cleaning up Friday morning. Tree trunks and branches were scattered throughout the facility. Several fences were down.

Power was restored Thursday evening.

“It’s really a nightmare,” McGreal said Friday. “It could’ve been worse.”

The cleanup conditions were dangerous to work in because more limbs could fall at any time, McGreal said.

“Our own staff are very good,” McGreal said.

Staff members stayed overnight to make sure the generators kept the gibbons warm.

One branch crashed into a gibbon house like a javelin or spear, McGreal said.

As the weather warmed up to about 55 degrees at noon on Friday, the gibbons could go back outside and run through their outdoor aerial mesh runways and cages.

“They like the outdoors,” McGreal said. “They were inside the last two days because of damage to cages and because it was so cold.”

The runway from the houses of Palu-Palu and his mate Jade were blocked. Another runway had to be found so they could bypass the damaged one, McGreal said.

“It terrifies you at first when you look at the chaos,” McGreal said. “We’ll get it together piece by piece.”

IPPL is asking for donations to help fix gibbon houses and other damage. Donations can be made at www.ippl.org.


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