Javan gibbons (Hylobates moloch) are one of the most endangered gibbon species in the world. Data on the reproductive biology of the species are almost nonexistent, and a general understanding of the female reproductive biology of this species is important for both ex situ and in situ conservation. Using 18 years of data from 11 captive individuals, we provide new information on the reproductive biology of Javan gibbons based on sexual swelling and menstrual bleeding, including reproductive development, interbirth intervals, and ovarian cycle lengths. Menarche and the onset of sexual swelling occurred at 6.2 and 6.5 years respectively, followed by a period of adolescent sterility of about 1.5 years. Average age at first birth was 8.8 years, and interbirth intervals were about 2.3 years, decreasing to 1.0 year during cases of infant mortality at or shortly after birth. Ovarian cyclicity was measured through periods between menstrual bleeding and sexual swelling. Menstrual bleeding indicates the start of a new ovarian cycle, while sexual swelling normally occurs near the time of ovulation. Menstrual bleeding intervals gave a cycle length of 25.6 days, while sexual swelling intervals gave a cycle length of 27.3 days. These both correspond closely to cycle lengths in other gibbon species, as well as hormonal studies in Javan gibbons. In particular, observing the presence/absence of swellings was found to be a useful and easy method to monitor female ovarian cycles, and could be a practical noninvasive technique for caretakers and researchers.
(c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.