Gibbon Conservation Center to Remain in Santa Clarita
Updated: Jan 6
SANTA CLARITA, CA - The Gibbon Conservation Center announced this summer that it would not be relocating, but will instead purchase the land it was previously renting in the Santa Clarita Valley and will continue to be open to the public.
Two Northern White Cheeked Gibbons found at the Gibbon Conservation Center are a critically endangered species of gibbon with a population of about 1,000. Photo by Elizabeth Medina.
Although the GCC has been in Santa Clarita since 1976, during the summer officials announced it would be packing up and leaving.
“Here we had a lease. We’ve been renting this place for many years and our lease was ending in July and we were not able to renew that lease,” said Gabi Skollar, director of the Gibbon Conservation Center.
Skollar explained that the GCC searched in areas with a more temperate climate including Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, San Diego County and even as far as San Luis Obispo County.
"Santa Clarita is like the desert," said Skollar. "It can get over 100 degrees during the summer almost every day, so we were looking where the temperature wouldn’t be as extreme as here and we’ll get more rain.”
Although there were a few other possible locations that the GCC could call their new home, Skollar said they won't be moving for now. Once the lease ended, she said they decided to purchase the site due to complications with the location the center had set their sights on.
She explained that buying the land they are currently using in Santa Clarita would give them some stability while they continue looking for a new place with the right climate that the gibbons can call their new home.
Skollar explained that it’s more work to make the current environment more suitable for the gibbon's in desert conditions -- one of the reasons why they would like to relocate the GCC.
Another reason is space.
“This is only 5 acres here," said Skollar, "and we want to grow and build bigger enclosures for the Gibbons. So we thought that we would need at least 20 usable acres to kind of grow our project.”
If they were to move to a new site with the right conditions, the center could focus on building bigger enclosures, a library and an on-site hospital. All of which would benefit both the gibbons and the general public that wish to expand their knowledge about the apes.
Although there are ways the center can make the environment more suitable for the gibbons at their current location, Skollar says there is an undeniable need for funding. This is especially true if they plan to move in the future.
"We're not giving up looking to move," said Skollar. "We're still looking at other sites, but we also understand we'll need more funding to do that, so, for now, we're looking for a major donor or someone who would want to collaborate with us. Whether that's the city or a university, we are looking at different options."
Skollar explained that with the onset of the pandemic, raising funds to operate the center was an even bigger challenge since tours were not possible for a while.
Now that the GCC is prepared to stay, she hopes for more volunteers and visitors. As of right now about 25 to 30 people are able to be on site for tours through reservations only. Skollar hopes the locals in Santa Clarita and people in the surrounding areas can go see the gibbons and learn more about them.
According to the GCC's website, the center houses some of the rarest apes in the Western Hemisphere and is the only institution in the globe to "house and breed all four genera of gibbon."
The center uses its site to study them and promote their conservation through habitat preservation and public education. Skollar said the GCC conducts research on-site and provides non-invasive research opportunities to other researchers as well.
Part of that research includes taking notes on the gibbon's behavior and vocalization. Aside from research, Skollar said the majority of daily work at the GCC is caring for the gibbons. The center feeds them six to eight times a day and provides them with over 20 to 30 different types of food.
"Their welfare, their need is always our priority," Skollar said.
Many of the gibbons at the GCC came from a zoo or were born at the center. The GCC participates in global species survival plans to try to preserve gibbons by breeding them in captivity. Skollar explained this can help establish a genetically diverse captive population that works as a safety net in case something happens to the population of gibbons in the wild.
"If something happens like if they become extinct, there will still be a safe population that can repopulate areas in a forest," said Skollar. "Having them here in one location gives us more of an opportunity to learn from them and study them closely."
The Gibbon Conservation Alliance notes that gibbons are the most endangered primate species in the world with hunting, illegal trade and habitat loss and degradation as its main threats to survival. According to the GCA, a lack of awareness on a local and international level are factors that contribute to inadequate protection for the gibbons.
At the GCC, education and awareness is a big driving force. Skollar said spreading awareness as to why the gibbons are endangered is the reason why they decided to release the documentary The Center: Gibbons and Guardians.
Skollar acknowledged that although the center provides something special to the community, it also needs the community's help for the GCC's team to continue their work.
Moving forward at their current location, she hopes the community will get more involved.
"We always need assistance," she said. "Food prep, behavioral note-taking, help with fire clearance, everything."
For more information on volunteering, email email@example.com or visit
For more information on admission, academic research and observations, private and student tours visit the Gibbon Conservation Center.
"Gibbons are so similar to us. They live in family groups and raise their offspring together. They are very emotional animals and very funny," said Skollar. "They make the most amazing song. I know when people come in they love the place and become inspired and connected with the gibbons."
Video credit: Elizabeth Medina
By Elizabeth Medina
Photos, Elizabeth Medina