Taronga Western Plains Zoo welcomed the arrival of a female Black-handed Spider Monkey baby, just prior to Christmas, on December 21, 2017.
After a little more than seven months gestation, the yet-to-be-named baby arrived to first-time mother, Margarita, and father, Pedro. The birth followed the exciting arrival of baby Isadora on October 9, 2017. Isadora was the first Spider Monkey to be born at the Zoo in 16 years.
“We are very excited to announce the arrival of another healthy female Spider Monkey baby, marking a wonderful boost to the Spider Monkey breeding program,” Keeper Mel Friedman said. “The baby’s mother, Margarita, is one of the last female Spider Monkeys to be born at the Zoo, 16 years ago. She has been proving her skills as an excellent mother, and has been taking great care of the baby, who clings to her belly as Margarita swings around her island home.”
“Margarita is quite a private individual compared to Jai (Isadora’s mother), who is more social, but now and then, she allows her Keepers to see the baby up close, which is very special,” Friedman said.
After a hiatus from breeding the species, Keepers were optimistic about the potential for more babies following the arrival of breeding male, Pedro, from France in 2014.
“Pedro is a highly valuable Spider Monkey male in the Australia/New Zealand region due to his genetics, and he has certainly been a great addition to the breeding group,” Mel said. “We were delighted when baby Isadora arrived in October last year, so to have two babies born in a three-month period is fantastic,” she said.
Once the baby becomes more active later in the year, Keepers expect to see her interacting with Jai’s four-month-old baby, Isadora. Isadora is already starting to engage with the rest of the troop while riding on her mother’s back.
To date, fifteen Spider Monkey babies have been born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, which is home to three sub-species of Black-handed Spider Monkeys. The best time to see them is at the “Spider Monkey Feed” which occurs at 12.50pm daily.
The Black-handed Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), also known as Geoffroy's Spider Monkey, is a species of New World monkey that is native to Central America, parts of Mexico and possibly a small portion of Colombia. There are at least five subspecies.
One of the largest New World monkeys, it often weighing as much as 9 kg (20 lbs.). The arms are significantly longer than its legs, and its prehensile tail can support the entire weight and is used as an extra limb. Its hands have only a vestigial thumb, but long, strong, hook-like fingers.
They reside in troops that contain between 20 and 42 members. Their diet consists primarily of ripe fruit, and they require large tracts of forest to survive. As a result of habitat loss, hunting and capture for the pet trade, the species is currently classified as “Endangered” by the IUCN.