by Abbie Krause
Watch out for the Splash Zone!
Cautiously, they stuck their heads through the small door of the exhibit. Quickly, they darted back. Then, once again, they peeked out. Each time venturing just a little bit further into their new home. This was the scene as the anxiously anticipated Pueblo Zoo DeBrazza’s monkeys exhibit was unveiled at the end of July, 2018. Ruby, the petite female, seemed to be the more adventurous one as she made the first tentative steps onto the exhibit. She was, after all, very close to her father in Houston, and under his tutelage, she learned dominant behaviors. Kanoa, the big boy who will be the protector and leader of the family, soon got the hang of things though and was also exploring the far reaches of the exhibit. He particularly seems to like walking along the lofty fire hose bridge (recycled from one of Pueblo’s own brigades) and climbing between platforms on the long pole traverses. He has also exhibited behaviors that indicate that he may just have the potential to fulfill the role of protector. In Denver, where he came from, he was the low man on the totem pole. Here, in Pueblo, he is displaying dominant behaviors such as perching high up on the highest platforms to survey the environs and keep a lookout. He has been heard vocalizing when a seeming threat is around such as the llamas out on a walk with their llama leaders or the construction crews putting on finishing touches.
Kanoa fulfilling this role may bode well for the future creation of a family. In close quarters while they were in quarantine, Ruby may have felt a little too close for comfort as Kanoa exerted his dominance. However, now that they are getting to know each other, and they have the space of the large exhibit, they seem to be clicking. They increasingly choose to spend more time next to each other. They are both just on the verge of being sexually mature so babies may come eventually or it may take just a little while longer. We are hopeful.
Visitors are delighting in discovering some of the monkeys’s habits and movements. Coming or going, these monkeys are beautiful to watch with very distinctive markings on both the head and on their bottoms. In addition to stuffing their cheek pouches with treats, they are sampling the decorative foliage in their exhibit (!). They like to perch on high above the observation glass – but beware to those below – Kanoa has been known to turn this into a splash zone as he relieves himself. They have not yet discovered that their water feature is for their pleasure, but they will.
Guests are not the only ones keeping an eye on the monkeys. Their neighbors, the meerkats, have been very curious and cautious about the new residents.As they almost steal the show with their furious digging, they always have a sentinel keeping an eye out.There has also been increased activity at the African dog exhibit as the dominant, Hunter, is trying to apply his dominance during this breeding season.There is much to discover in this corner of the zoo as the African animals have finally come together to call this area home.
FACT BOX by Anne Casey
De Brazza’s Monkey
Scientific name: Cercopithecus neglectus
Common name: DeBrazza’s Monkey (for the explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza)
Description: De Brazza’s monkeys are medium sized monkeys with gray-tipped brown fur and black extremities and tail. Their faces are black with a white muzzle that is accented by a pointed white beard and an orange crescent shape above the eyes. They have a white stripe across their hips, white rumps and the males have a blue scrotum. Females are markedly smaller than males, growing to 10 lbs. and 18 inches in length with a 21 inch tail, while males grow to 17 lbs. and 22 inches with a 27 inch tail.
Range: From Cameroon southwards through Gabon and Congo to northern Angola and eastwards through much of the Democratic Republic of Congo and southern Central African Republic to eastern Uganda
Habitat: De Brazza’s monkeys live in the lower part of the canopy of flooded forests, swamps and marshy areas.
Behavior: Fruits and seeds make up the bulk of these monkeys’ diet, but they will occasionally eat leaves, mushrooms and small prey such as birds and lizards. De Brazza’s monkeys have large cheek pouches which allow them to collect food on the ground and then retreat to safety in the trees where they use the back of their hand to push their cache from their cheek into their mouth. Their powerful jaws thoroughly chew the tough seeds and nuts that comprise their diet. De Brazza’s monkeys walk on all fours and have opposable digits on all four limbs. They are one of the rare breeds of monkey that enjoys the water and can swim. An unusual behavior that De Brazza’s monkeys can employ to evade predators is the ability to stay completely still, or “freeze”, for up to five hours.
Reproduction and rearing: De Brazza’s monkeys live in family groups of up to 10 monkeys with one adult male and one or sometimes two adult females. Male offspring leave the group when they are sexually mature at 5 – 6 years. All females in a group are related. Gestation takes between 177 to 187 days with usually one offspring, but occasionally two. The young will cling to its mother’s abdomen and nurse for a year. At two months they begin to forage alongside their parents. Females typically have one offspring each year.
Predators: Large African eagles, leopards and other primates prey on De Brazza’s monkeys.
Lifespan: In captivity De Brazza’s monkeys can live up to 30 years. They live for 20 – 26 years in the wild.
Conservation Status: The IUCN Redlist lists Cercopithecus neglectus as a species of Least Concern. They are widespread within their range, but there have been declines in their numbers due to habitat encroachment. They are also hunted for meat and shot by farmers who consider them crop pests.
References: https://www.arkive.org/de-brazzas-monkey/cercopithecus-neglectus/; http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/4223/0; https://www.oregonzoo.org/discover/animals/de-brazzas-monkey.