A baby Gelada has made its public debut at the Bronx Zoo. The Bronx Zoo is the only zoo in the U.S. that breeds the Gelada and is one of only two that exhibit the species.
The newest baby was born on August 30, and at only four weeks old, the infant is still clinging to mom and drawing a lot of attention from the rest of the family unit. Altogether, the group is made up of one adult male, three adult females, two juveniles, and the new baby.
“This is an exciting time with a lot of interesting dynamics and activity, with an infant and two juvenile Geladas in our troop in the Zoo’s Baboon Reserve,” said Jim Breheny, WCS Executive Vice President, Bronx Zoo Director, and General Director of WCS’s Zoos and Aquarium. “Being able to watch the social interactions within the group allows visitors to better understand how Gelada live in their family units and behave during the various developmental stages. It is an inspiring sight that transports you to the East African highlands.”
The Gelada (Theropithecus gelada) is a primate that is endemic to Ethiopia. They are sometimes called “Gelada Baboons” or “Bleeding Heart Baboons” for the characteristic red patch of skin on their chests, but they are more closely related to Mangabeys.
The female’s red patch becomes more pronounced during the mating season to attract males. The males have a beautiful flowing cape of long hair on their backs that resembles a shawl.
Geladas are “graminivores” (herbivorous animal that feeds on grass). They are unique among primates in that they feed primarily on grasses. Adult males have prominent canines that they use to display to other competing males, and they communicate to each other through a wide range of vocalizations, facial gestures, and body postures.
In 2008, the IUCN classified the Gelada as “Least Concern”, although their population had reduced from an estimated 440,000 in the 1970s to around 200,000 in 2008. Major threats to the Gelada are: reduction of their range as a result of agricultural expansion and shooting as crop pests.
The Bronx Zoo’s Baboon Reserve, where the Geladas have been at home since 1990, is representative of the natural habitat of the Geladas’ native Ethiopian highlands. The exhibit also includes Nubian Ibex (Capra nubiana), a species of long-horned mountain goat that is adapted to steep mountainous habitats, and Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis), a small, terrestrial mammal that lives among boulders, rock crevices and cliffs.