The National Zoo marked the coming of spring with the birth of a black howler monkey (Alouatta caraya) on March 22. Since the birth, zookeepers have monitored the new family from a safe distance as first-time parents Chula (mother) and Pele (father) bond with their new baby.
The baby monkey's sex is still undetermined. Its new parents are already reportedly exhibiting strong parenting skills, and the still unnamed baby has quickly become alert, bright and increasingly active and independent as each day passes. This successful birth marks the first surviving black howler monkey in the Smithsonian National Zoo's history. Zoo visitors can observe the monkey baby and his howler parents in the Small Mammal House.
This is looking wonderful, Bob King, curator of the Small Mammals House, told Smithsonian Magazine. Both parents are being great. The mom's watching the baby carefully, and the dad is interested but not too assertive.
Howler monkey's have thick necks that hold super-sized voice boxes, which included an enlarged hyoid bone, enabling the growls of male howler monkeys to travel for up to three miles through dense forest. These loud territorial howls are what earned the monkey species its name, as they are the loudest animals in the world. Howler monkeys are found exclusively in the Americas.
King explained that the zoo has not attempted to breed any new howler monkeys in decades, and not just because of the noise.
Of all the primates, they have one of the higher mortality rates for newborns. And these are first-time parents, which increases the risk, he said. One of the reasons the mortality rate is high is because they have a well-known history of infanticide, regularly seen from the males. It tends to happen with a non-related baby, but not always. So one of the things we worry about is if the male will interpret the baby correctly.
According to King, the father, Pele, appears interested by his offspring, and not at all upset or angry. But the baby is still clinging to its mother's chest non-stop, and the father generally does not get involved in parenthood until the baby monkey begins moving around independently.