The spider monkey exhibit has always been a popular stop for Zoo visitors. The playful primates that live in the trees enjoy showing off their acrobatics for their spectators.
Recently, there has been added interest in visiting the spider monkey exhibit, because “Monica,” one of our females, recently became a momma! Monica and her bundle of joy hang out comfortably very near the viewing platform, giving visitors a unique “close-up” look at such a rare phenomenon.
The Yucatan Spider Monkey that calls Belize home is an endangered species, which makes any successful birth even more significant and welcomed! Populations took a steep drop in the 1950’s due to a strain of yellow fever, but, today, their major threats are deforestation and the pet trade. Fruits make up a big part of the spider monkey diet, which makes them important seed dispersers. Their population decline directly impacts the productivity of our forests.
In the wild, spider monkeys live in large social groups. The father has no direct parenting role, but protects the group’s territory from intruders. “Pancho,” our male spider monkey is the father to Monica’s baby. Even though he isn’t expected to win any “world’s best dad” awards, he is still attentive and sits with his new family very often. Good job, Pancho!
The Zoo is grateful to have a small troop of monkeys in an environment where Belizeans can come and observe them from a safe distance, and learn so much about their behavior, ecology, and threats.
However, a strong message is also reinforced at the monkey exhibits. “Monkey business is bad business!,” the signs boldly state. As fascinating as they may be, having monkeys as pets is NOT an option. Apart from being illegal in Belize, the pet trade only works to destroy an already endangered population. A mother monkey would never abandon its young, so you can be sure the cute baby being sold just is an unfortunate orphan whose mother was killed.
Monkeys are clever, unpredictable, and aggressive. They are deceptively strong, and can grab hold of a human and inflict a painful bite in the blink of an eye. There are several diseases that can pass between monkeys and humans, and children are particularly at risk. Monica, Pancho, and other members of our monkey troop were all former pets who got too big and wild for their owners, and were simply cast aside. The bottom line: Come observe and appreciate the monkeys at the Zoo, but leave all the others in the wild!
TBZ encourages readers who know of monkeys being kept as pets to contact the Forest Department. FD works tirelessly to help crack down on the illegal pet trade. Help us keep our natural heritage wild and free!