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Meet Estela, the Hand-Reared Baby Spider Monkey

Photo credits: All by Trent Brownings but last (by zoo staff)

Estela the Spider Monkey is now on view in Melbourne Zoo's Primate Nursery with her grandmother Sonja. Estela was abandoned at birth by her mother Sunshine, so Primate Keepers stepped in to provide 24/7 care to pull the tiny newborn through since her birth on January 17th.

Primate Supervisor Jess McKelson explains "Because Sonja didn't feed Estela, the baby didn't get the crucial protection against infection that comes from the colostrum in mother's milk. So the baby has been very prone to infection, and we have needed to keep her under quarantine conditions at times. But we have still placed a major priority on getting her acquainted with her grandmother, Sonya, so she can learn the behaviours that are natural to a Spider Monkey."




When Estela was born, Sonja was already living in retirement in the Primate Nursery. That area is next to the room where Keepers have been caring for Estela, so Sonja was in the ideal position to observe the baby's development. Jess says that Sonja has shown interest in Estela from the very beginning and expects that she will be an excellent role model for the baby.

‘We are gradually trying to wean Estela from being dependent on us to having more interaction with Sonja.
‘We've started teaching Estela to climb, gradually building up her strength and confidence.

‘She is gaining weight well, from 449gr at birth to 980gr now. We are currently giving her six feeds of formula a day, and now we've started slowly introducing her to some solid foods.'