Chapter Four: Mark

It soon became apparent to the zookeepers in the Primate House that the siamang matchmaking plan was not working. Suzy and Unk would not cooperate; in fact, they rarely looked at one another. They obviously needed more encouragement. George Speidel decided to place the two gibbons in the same cage.

Suzy’s enclosure was chosen as the meeting place. Unk regarded his own cage as his territory and could be expected to defend it against any stranger, even an unmated female of his own species. Mr. Speidel hoped Unk would be less aggressive in an unfamiliar place.

One more precaution was taken against Unk’s bad temper. Before the meeting, the male siamang was given an injection of a tranquilizer. The dosage of the drug was small: It is always dangerous to medicate a wild animal because there is very little information available on how much will do the job and how much will cause harm. A small dose would minimize the risks to Unk’s health. Besides, Mr. Speidel wanted Unk to remain alert, if somewhat calmer than usual.
The keepers held their breath as the door between the two siamang cages was opened. At once, Unk rushed through the doorway. Suzy looked up with interest. Then suddenly her expression turned fearful. Unk was making an “aggressive face” at her--lips drawn back in a frightening grin that revealed his enormous canine teeth.

Suzy scrambled up a rope to a shelf in the middle of her cage. Unk followed and attacked, biting and grabbing. Squealing with fear and confusion, Suzy broke away. But Unk chased after her and attacked again.

Clearly matters were not proceeding as planned. Unk’s tranquilizer had not worked at all--the small, safe dosage had been far too small.
Suzy, smaller than Unk, and naturally gentle, could not and would not defend herself. The two animals would have to be separated quickly, before Unk really hurt Suzy. Just as the decision was being made to separate them, Suzy managed to free herself from Unk’s grasp again. This time she headed for the opening between the cages. She tore through the doorway, and before Unk could follow, a keeper pulled a lever dropping the door.

The first meeting between the siamangs was over, and it had been a disaster. Luckily, Suzy proved to be uninjured, if a bit scared. Unk was unmoved by the experience. A few of the zookeepers felt discouraged. George Speidel was discouraged too, but he refused to give up. He decided to wait one month and try to introduce the siamangs again.