Raising Iniko, the first baby patas monkey to be hand-reared by humans, has been a challenge for the Rosamond Gifford Zoo since she was born on June 8, 2020. Her mother, Becca, went into renal failure during her birth and Iniko was delivered by emergency C-section. Becca died shortly after, leaving the zoo’s primate team to care for the tiny newborn.
The zoo’s general curator, Dan Meates, and his wife, zookeeper Leisje Meates, stepped up to raise Iniko at their home. For months they bottle fed her every 2 to 3 hours and recorded her every move. It turned out they were pioneering the first recorded instance of a baby patas monkey being raised in human care -- during a pandemic. Leisje Meates named the baby Iniko, which means “born during troubled times.”
The little monkey thrived and won the hearts of CNY and beyond as the zoo shared her story. At 4 months, the Meates started bringing her to the zoo to expand her world and allow others to help raise her. Recently they began the delicate process of introducing her to her biological family, the zoo’s patas monkey troop, a tight group with a complex social structure.
Then things took another troubling turn. Iniko’s father, male patas monkey MJ, passed away. He was being treated for a gastrointestinal illness when his condition worsened in late February. His passing complicates matters, not so much for Iniko as for the troop he led as patriarch. MJ was the overseer and peacekeeper of the troop, which includes his three older daughters and their two “aunties,” Sarah and Addie.
In the wild, patas monkeys form permanent family groups of all females led by one mature male. This lead male may be challenged and replaced by a stronger male on a fairly regular basis. Male offspring of the troop will leave it when they approach maturity to lead their own troop, join an all-male group or remain solitary. Females have their own hierarchy within the troop, which can fluctuate or cause conflicts that will usually be settled by the patriarch.
The absence of a male leader at the zoo leaves its troop rudderless, making it a difficult time to introduce a new young female, said Rosamond Gifford Zoo Director Ted Fox.
“Hand-rearing the first baby patas monkey that we know of has been a total learning experience, and obviously that’s going to continue as we figure out the best way to proceed with integrating Iniko into our troop,” Ted said.
“Fellow AZA institutions will be paying close attention to how this goes, because it has implications for not just patas monkeys, but similar species of primates as well,” he said.
The zoo’s troop of patas monkeys already has a compelling history. The original group, including MJ, Sarah, Addie and Becca, were among 20 patas monkeys rescued from Puerto Rico by the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, FL, in 2010.
Patas monkeys are native to Africa, but a group brought to Puerto Rico for animal research either escaped or was released and began raiding crops to survive. As a result, they were being targeted for extermination as an invasive species and agricultural pests when the Lowry Park Zoo stepped in.
Five of the monkeys they rescued – MJ plus two adult females and their daughters -- came to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, which opened its patas monkey exhibit in August 2010.
Since then, the zoo has been among only six accredited zoos in North America to care for patas monkeys. AZA institutions share their knowledge to benefit species in their care as well as their wild counterparts, so every new piece of information on this species is relevant.
Dan and Leisje Meates already were writing a scientific paper on what they learned from raising Iniko. They may have another one in their future. Ted said what is known about patas monkeys led them to conclude that a new male will need to join the troop. Introducing a young male to a group of all females will allow him to take over as the new patriarch and the females to resume their former roles.
Right now, the plan is to bring in a new male from another zoo to become the leader and restore stability to the troop. “There are several options for introductions, and we are exploring which might be the most successful for Iniko,” Ted said.
If all goes well, Iniko will be able to meet her sisters and aunties and remain part of the zoo family. If not, she would move to another AZA zoo looking to start a new troop of young patas monkeys.
“Of course we want Iniko to stay here long term, and we’re going to approach this carefully and sensitively in hopes it works out that way,” Fox said. “But we are operating on the animals’ terms, not ours, so they will be the deciding factor. They will help us figure out what’s best for Iniko.”
BALTIMORE, MD – Thanks to thousands of avid chimpanzee fans, The Maryland Zoo’s newest addition to the chimpanzee troop has been officially named “Maisie” (May-zee).
By the time voting closed at midnight on Thursday, Maisie was the winner in a tight race, with over 9,500 votes cast! Runners-up were Asha, Olivia, Nyota and Tulia. The names in the contest were selected by the Chimpanzee Forest animal care team members, who are caring for the littlest chimp around the clock.
“We’re so happy she officially has a name,” said Pam Carter, Chimpanzee Forest area manager. “Animal care staff use individual names, especially during training sessions. The chimpanzees all recognize their own names as well as each other’s and being able to call her Maisie will help us make the important introductions to the troop when she is ready.”
Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)are classified as endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List. One of the greatest threats to the wild chimpanzees is loss of habitat, the African forest, from commercial logging, agriculture and fires. Poaching and disease also put the wild population at risk.
“Another reason we give recognizable names to animals in our care is that it helps create a unique bond between the animal and our visitors,” said Margaret Rose-Innes, assistant general curator. “We hope that if they learn to care for the individual, they will also care about what we are doing to save that species, which is so important not just for our future generations, but also for the future of Maisie’s wild cousins.”
Maisie arrived at the Zoo in late September and is being cared for by the Chimp Forest Animal Care team who work in three shifts around the clock to provide her constant care. “Maisie drinks baby formula every three hours, sleeps, and has some playtime every day to help strengthen her muscles,” continued Carter. “We also wear a shirt and blanket that have fringe material sewn on that helps her learn to grip.” Maisie can now rollover by herself and she can also pull herself up into a sitting position.
The first day of spring was still hours away when Cheyenne Mountain Zoo welcomed a special springtime arrival. Three-year-old Howler Monkey, Charlie, gave birth March 19, much to the delight of her keepers, who say mom and baby are bonding quickly and appear to be in good health.
Charlie gave birth to her yet unnamed baby, whose gender likely won’t be confirmed for months, in their exhibit in Monkey Pavilion. The baby appeared to be strong immediately after the birth, and Charlie’s maternal instinct was evident within the hour. Within moments of her baby’s birth, Charlie was cradling and grooming the baby, even softly patting the back of the baby’s head as she held it.
“We watch for certain indicators that the baby is strong,” said Cheyenne Mountain Zoo senior lead keeper, Michelle Salido, who was there during the birth. “We like to see them grasp on to their mother’s fur and for their tails to wrap around their mother’s arms or nearby branches. Nursing is the ultimate sign that the mother and baby are doing well. We’re seeing all of those things, so we’re excited it’s going so well.”
Photo Credits: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Charlie and her baby will remain in their exhibit in Monkey Pavilion, where guests can view them any day of the week. Charlie’s mate, Howie, a three-year-old Black Howler Monkey, who was in the habitat with Charlie during the birth, is in the same space as Charlie and the baby, but seems most content keeping his distance for now.
Charlie and Howie were recommended to breed based on their genetics as part of the Black Howler Monkey Species Survival Plan, managed by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. This baby’s birth is contributing to a program that is working to help guarantee 100 years of genetic diversity for the species in accredited organizations.
Keepers will keep a close eye on Charlie and her baby, and will be happy to share their joy with members and guests who come to visit.
“It’s unusual for Howler Monkeys to give birth during the day, and it’s unusual that all three of her primary keepers are in one place at one time to witness it,” said Salido. “It was a really special family moment.”
The L'Hoest's Monkey family group at Zoo Wrocław is maintained at the level of eight to ten individuals to prevent inbreeding and overcrowding. Over the years they’ve successfully raised ten offspring, mostly females.
The youngest addition to the Zoo’s family came into the world recently---on Christmas Day. The mother is Hermione, and the father is the dominant male, Heos. The sex of the toddler is still unknown, but the caregivers suspect it to be a female.
Photo Credits: ZOO Wroclaw
The L'Hoest's Monkey (Cercopithecus lhoesti) is one of the least common monkeys in zoological gardens in the world. Only 14 zoos have it in their collection. The species is found in the upper eastern Congo basin. They mostly live in mountainous forest areas in small, female-dominated groups.
The species is currently classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. However, the ongoing military conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (over 20 years already) prevents an accurate estimation of the population size in the wild. In this situation, conservation breeding in zoological gardens becomes a necessity for the survival of the species. Zoo Wrocław plays an important role in the conservation efforts.
“It is believed that the L'Hoest's Monkey’s Red List status of ‘vulnerable’ is not accurate anymore, and the population may be actually close to extinction. Even if the conflict in the Congo is over, it is hard to say what we will find there. Hence, breeding programs in zoos ensure a safe population, which will hopefully make possible the reintroduction of the species to the natural environment in the future,” said Anna Mękarska, specialist in the conservation of species from Zoo Wrocław.
Tamarins are a group of Monkeys native to Central and South America. There are more than 30 species of Tamarins, and most are roughly the size of a squirrel.
Photos of Cotton-top Tamarin: Brian Lilly
A Pied Tamarin (not pictured) arrived in late October, the 12th to be born at the zoo. This species is found only in a small slice of tropical rain forest near the Brazilian city of Manaus. Pied Tamarins require highly specialized care and feeding, so zoo births are rare. The species is listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), because it is threatened with habitat loss.
A Cotton-top Tamarin born this fall is the first to be born at the facility in 15 years. The baby was born to parents Tina and Turner, who are providing excellent care for their offspring. Males assist the female by carrying the baby on their back.
Like their cousins the Pied Tamarins, Cotton-top Tamarins are native to South America and have a unique diet that includes tree sap. They are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, with only about 6,000 individuals remaining in the wild. They were once listed as one of the 25 most endangered Primates in the world.
Cooperative breeding programs among zoos help to maintain a high level of genetic diversity within the zoo-dwelling population. Once these two babies have grown up, they will likely move to other European zoos and breed with unrelated individuals, thus bolstering the species.
Keepers at Taronga Western Plains Zoo were delighted by the early morning arrival of an endangered Black-handed Spider Monkey baby on October 26 to first time mother, Martina.
The male infant is yet to be named, but both mother and baby are doing well so far.
“Martina is a natural mother, she is showing all the right maternal behaviors. She has had the advantage of watching our two other mothers raise their babies over the past year,” said Keeper Stephanie Sims.
Photo Credit: Taronga Western Plains Zoo
“At present visitors need to have a keen eye or binoculars to spot the newest addition, as the baby is clinging closely to mum’s stomach and looks like a little brown bulge from the viewing area.”
The baby will cling to his mother’s belly for the next few months, and has only in the last week started to hold his head up and look around. During his first year he will slowly gain confidence and start feeding himself, spending small periods of time away from Martina and hanging out with other members of the group. The baby will still rely on his mother though, as Spider Monkey babies are not considered completely independent until approximately three years of age.
“At present father Pedro doesn’t play a hands-on role raising the baby. However, as he gets older, Pedro will spend time wrestling and playing with him which also teaches specific social skills,” said Stephanie.
The two Spider Monkey babies born late last year were at first very curious about the new arrival, getting up close to take a look at the baby. The curiosity has worn off for the time being though.
“As the baby gets older and starts wanting to play with the older two, they will show more interest in him again.”
The Black-handed Spider Monkey regional conservation breeding program has a shortage of breeding males and while every birth is important, having a new genetic bloodline for the program is significant.
“We are really excited that the newest arrival is a male. The two babies from late last year were both females so to have a male this time is really great news,” said Stephanie.
Native to Central America and extreme northern South America, Black-handed Spider Monkeys are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The primary threat is loss of habitat. Large forested areas are essential to their survival, and these tracts are becoming rare in the region. Because they reproduce only once every two to four years, Black-handed Spider Monkey populations cannot quickly rebound when affected by human-caused disturbances.
According to representatives from the French zoo, the one-month-old newborn is reportedly doing well and has started to eat solid food, though it is still suckling. Among cercopithecidae species, weaning is usually completed around one-year-old. The baby is yet-to-be-named, as the keepers haven’t confirmed its sex with certainty.
Photo Credits: Florence Perroux/Zoo de La Palmyre
De Brazza’s Monkeys (Cercopithecus neglectus) are born with a yellow-brown fur that darkens as they grow up. Adults have an orange crescent-shaped band of hair on their forehead and a white beard. De Brazza’s Monkeys mainly feed on fruits but also consume leaves and insects, and they frequently forage on the ground.
In the wild, the species is common and widespread. As it occurs in dozens of African countries, it is not threatened in short term but locally suffers from habitat destruction. Cercopithecidae are also hunted for their meat or because they sometimes destroy crops.
Spain’s Bioparc Valencia welcomed a Northern Talapoin, the smallest of all Monkeys found in Africa, on August 21. The birth is significant because it occurred within a group of Talapoins that were confiscated from wildlife smugglers. Photo Credit: Bioparc Valencia
Baby Talapoins are born weighing almost one-quarter of their adult weight. That means a two-pound adult female could deliver a baby weighing one-half pound. (In humans, that would be akin to a 100-pound woman giving birth to a 25-pound baby.) The baby Talapoins grow rapidly and are weaned by about six weeks of age. The youngsters are independent by the time they are three months old.
Northern Talapoins are not well studied, so this birth allows the zoo to share information on breeding and reproduction with the scientific community.
Because of their small size and unusual greenish coloration, Talapoins are captured and sold illegally as pets. As in most wildlife trafficking, the animals are kept in cruel conditions (such as being stuffed into PVC pipes), and many die in transport. The lucky group at Bioparc Valencia was spared that fate.
Wildlife trafficking remains a significant problem around the globe. Wild animals should never be kept as pets.
A female L’Hoest’s Monkey made a dramatic entrance into the world at Zoo de La Palmyre, in France.
The infant was born on July 23 via emergency caesarean performed on her 9-year old mother. When dystocia (difficult delivery) was confirmed, the veterinary team intervened very quickly to assist in the birth.
Unfortunately, the baby did not present a sufficient grasping reflex (her mother was an inexperienced primiparous female). Therefore, after careful consideration, the vet decided hand rearing would be in the best interest of the newborn. She was put in an incubator at the Zoo nursery, where she immediately started being fed by the keepers.
A few days later, her incubator was put in the corridor of the monkey building, just in front of the L’Hoest’s Monkeys’ cage. This early return in close proximity to her group should allow the baby to have visual and auditory contact with her peers and facilitate her future reintroduction with them within a few months.
Photo Credits: Zoo de La Palmyre/ Florence Perroux (1,4)/ Sebastien Meys (2,3)For the time being the baby receives bottles of 20ml of milk every two hours from 8am to midnight. Keepers report that she’s very dynamic and reacts positively to the presence of the other L’Hoest’s Monkeys who are also very interested by this stirring baby.
L’Hoest Monkeys (Allochrocebus lhoesti) are native to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, western Rwanda and Uganda. Adults have a brilliant white ruff around their neck and amber-colored eyes. Youngsters have brown-red coast that darken with age.