By Associated Press - Tuesday, December 18, 2018

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) - An elderly gibbon recently transferred to the Santa Barbara Zoo from Northern California has died unexpectedly, possibly from cancer, authorities announced Tuesday.

Nikko, a 35-year-old white-handed gibbon, died Sunday. He underwent tests and received a clean bill of health at the Oakland Zoo before arriving in Santa Barbara less than a month ago and showed no signs of illness until his appetite decreased about 10 days ago, according to the Santa Barbara Zoo.

Nikko was found to have acute liver and renal failure. He was being taken to veterinary specialists for more testing when he died. A mass found in his body will be tested to determine whether it was cancerous.

Earlier diagnosis and treatment wouldn’t have saved Nikko, Julie Barnes, the zoo’s director of animal care and health, said in a press statement.

“We are so sad to have lost him so soon after his arrival, as he had already won everyone’s hearts,” she said.

White-handed gibbons live high in the forest canopy in Asia and are considered endangered by habitat loss. They can live 30 years in the wild and 40 or more in captivity. Gibbons live in small families and are mainly monogamous. They communicate through whooping, siren-like songs and couples will often share duets.

Nikko was sent to Santa Barbara to be a companion to an elderly female, Jasmine, and a 4-year-old female, Jari. Nikko and Jasmine had both lost their mates of several decades and it was hoped the three apes would bond into a blended family, according to the zoo.

Nikko’s body will be returned to the Oakland Zoo for burial.

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