Alan Richard Mootnick, one of the world’s foremost specialists and conservationists of gibbons, died Friday, Nov. 4, from complications following heart surgery. He was 60 years old.
Mootnick founded the non-profit Gibbon Conservation Center (GCC) in Santa Clarita, CA, in 1976, with the purpose to prevent the extinction of gibbons—small Southeast Asian apes—and to advance the study, propagation, and conservation of the species.
What started as a childhood fascination with gibbons developed into an important sanctuary, housing the largest gathering of endangered apes in the Western Hemisphere. Completely self-taught in primatology, Mootnick was one of a team responsible for the identification and naming of the highly endangered Hoolock Gibbon.
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He published more than 30 articles in peer-reviewed journals and offered advice to zoos, government agencies, veterinary universities, and gibbon rescue centers throughout the world. He was the studbook keeper for five species and Husbandry Advisor for the Gibbon Species Survival Plan.
Mootnick and his work touched countless individuals and institutions. Hundreds of school children and students visit the Gibbon Conservation Center yearly, and the general public enjoys the annual “Breakfast With the Gibbons” fundraiser. Known for an eccentric style—gray-spotted beard, constant suspenders, and dry sense of humor—Mootnick was a person not easily forgotten. Strangers would approach him on the street, recognizing him from a long-ago school trip to the Gibbon Conservation Center.
A Los Angeles native, Mootnick is survived by his sister Ronnie Weinberger, nephews Paul and Steve Weinberger, aunt Jean Galanti, cousins Geri-Ann Galanti, and William and Kenneth Benbassat, and 44 gibbons currently residing at the Gibbon Conservation Center.
Funeral services will be held at Groman Eden Mortuary, 11500 Sepulveda Blvd., Mission Hills, on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011, at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Gibbon Conservation Center, http://www.gibboncenter.org/contribute/contribute.html