BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Binder Park Zoo is thrilled to share the news that a baby black and white colobus monkey was born in the early hours of October 31, at the zoo. Parents Usi and Nairobi produced the offspring, whose gender has not been determined yet, upon a breeding recommendation of an Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan. The event marks the first birth of a primate in almost five years at the zoo when a black mangabey monkey was born in October of 2015. The “Baby monkeys are born with their eyes open and a strong grip which they need to cling to mom,” said Kelsey Miller, Lead Keeper at Binder Park Zoo, “we’re really happy that this little one is alert, appears healthy and is demonstrating a good strong grip.” Other than observing and providing basic care, keepers maintain a “hands-off” approach with the new family to encourage their natural parenting instincts. “Nairobi is showing that she is a calm and attentive mom to her baby and we see Usi being protective of them both”– the behaviors we hope for, especially for first-timers.” Miller added.
Colobus monkeys have lived at Binder Park Zoo since 1998. The Monkey Valley exhibit opened in 1999 and remains an engaging “in-the-round” exhibit where two primate species coexist - the black and white colobus and black mangabeys. The current colobus troop consists of three monkeys; male Usi, his mate Nairobi and a female named Puddin’. Rejected by his mother as an infant, Usi was hand-raised by his keepers, which included round the clock feedings and specialized care. An important goal was to rear him to identify as a monkey and not a human – a particular challenge of hand-raising primates. Zoo staff were successful and Usi was ultimately introduced, and accepted by the troop. Usi’s name means “eyebrow” in Swahili – in response to the pronounced eyebrows he was born with. Nairobi was born at Lincoln Park Zoo in 2015 and came to Binder Park Zoo in 2018 together with her female companion/aunt named Puddin’. Puddin’s experience as a senior troop member places her in a guardian role, helping to protect Nairobi and care for the youngster – duties that troop members typically share.
“Usi didn’t necessarily have an ideal start in life. When you hand-raise an animal you develop a special affection for them, rooting for the underdog” said Kathryn Sippel, Curator of Collections at the zoo. “So, it’s been very rewarding for our Animal Care staff to watch him grow into the primate he was meant to be, and now become a father. Usi was born on April 16, the first day of the 2015 zoo season, and it’s interesting that five years later, his baby is born on the last day of the 2020 season! It shows how much time, patience and tenacity is often invested in these important programs.”
The eastern black and white colobus or Colobus guereza are native to equatorial Africa. The name “colobus” is from the Greek word for “mutilated,” because unlike other monkeys, colobus monkeys do not have thumbs. One of only two colobus species, the other being the Angolan colobus, black and white colobus have shiny black fur and a white-framed bearded face. They are the most arboreal of African monkeys and spend most of their time in the treetops. Their long mantle hair and tails appear to act like parachutes during long leaps between branches in the tree canopy. Colobus are herbivores, eating the tender young leaves that grow high up in the treetops. At the zoo, they dine on leafy greens and a variety of vegetables. An interesting fact is that they have complex stomachs enabling them to digest mature or toxic foliage that other monkeys cannot. Mature colobus monkeys can weigh between 11-30 pounds. While colobus aren’t considered endangered, hunting has led to their extermination in some areas. Habitat loss remains the greatest threat.
“It is an honor to be part of the extraordinary conservation work at Binder Park Zoo” said Diane Thompson, president & CEO, “Our zookeepers and veterinary staff, along with the other staff members, make a difference daily, and their work matters. Knowing that our conservation efforts have resulted in expanding the efforts of protecting this vital species is thrilling. We are genuinely excited to welcome the baby colobus to the zoo family.”
Gestation for colobus is approximately six months. They are born with a pink face and white fur. They begin to change color at around four weeks of age and acquire the characteristic black and white adult coloration at approximately three months of age. Guests can expect to see the youngster on exhibit in the spring.
Binder Park Zoo is closed to the public now for the winter months and will open again on April 15, 2021. Visit binderparkzoo.org for more zoo news and follow us on Facebook.
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