Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s Black-handed Spider Monkey babies are growing and developing rapidly. Born in October and December 2017, the two females have started to explore their island home away from their mothers. Isadora, the eldest of the two youngsters, is already becoming quite an influence on her younger half-sister. The younger female, Ariana is quite curious of Isadora, and often follows and copies her to pick-up items or practice climbing skills. As the old saying goes: “monkey see, monkey do”!
Photo Credits: Rick Stevens
Sasha Brook, Keeper, said, “The two babies have started playing with each other only very recently, and it is one of the cutest things I’ve seen in all my years as a keeper!”
Both the mothers, particularly Jai, are very relaxed and allow the keepers to interact with their babies. The babies love to climb and chew on the keeper’s hands and are now at an age where their confidence is rapidly increasing.
“Both babies are eating a fair amount of solid food now, but are still quite reliant on the nutrition of their mothers’ milk,” said Sasha.
The babies will be fully weaned and completely independent by the age of two, but will still stay close to their mothers until they are approximately four years old.
“They can still be seen riding on their mothers back, and when they run amok their mums will chase after them and scoop them up. The two often copy their mothers, and other members of the troop, by picking up and mouthing carrots and other fruits and vegetables provided,” Sasha shared.
The Black-handed Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), also known as Geoffroy's Spider Monkey is a species of spider monkey native to Central America, parts of Mexico, and possibly a small portion of Colombia. As a result of habitat loss, hunting and the pet trade, the species is classified as “Endangered” by the IUCN.
Their body color varies by subspecies and population: buff, reddish, rust, brown or black. Hands and feet are dark or black, and the face usually has a pale mask and bare skin around the eyes and muzzle.
Unlike most primates whose males leave to find other troops for breeding, female Black-handed Spider Monkeys are generally the ones to seek a new troop upon becoming sexually mature. These females may eventually go to another zoo in the future, but for now they will continue to grow and develop under the watchful eye of their mothers and keepers.
A great time to see the Black-handed Spider Monkeys is at 12:50pm when keepers provide them with their lunch. Visitors to the zoo can also grab their own lunch or a coffee and watch the Spider Monkey antics any time during the day.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo had not bred Black-handed Spider Monkeys for 16 years, until the arrival of Isadora last year, followed by Ariana soon after.
For more information about the facility, visit www.zoofari.com.au .