breeding humboldt's woolly monkey lagothrix lagotricha at murrayton woolly monkey sanctuary

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    Breeding Humboldt's woolly monkey

    a t Murrayton Woolly Monkey Sanctuary Lagothrix lagotricha

    L. W I L L I A M S Murrayton Woolly Monkey Sanctuary, Near Looe, Cornwall, England

    In the interests of animal conservation, public education and zoological research, I consider the specialised colony of animals in captivity to be no less important than the creation of natural re- serves in the wild. In time game parks and reserves will become more controlled or 'unnatural' and in the conflict between wildlife and the demands of human society, I believe the specialised animal colony will play one of the most important parts in helping to solve the problems of wild animal survival. However, if zoos are to play a real and useful part in animal conservation, they will have to change their whole attitude to keeping wild animals in captivity: at present zoos consume many more animals than they produce. Moreover, few zoos provide the necessary conditions for the majority of wild animals species to reproduce over several generations.

    Our woolly monkey colony was founded in 1959 in Kent and was transferred to Murrayton, Cornwall, in 1965. At present (Nov. 1966) the


    J o b Django Lulu Samba

    Elizabeth *

    Kicky Sue Lulu's Baby Jessy's Baby



    6 44

    8 4

    5 I t

    20 days z days

    I 0

    I 0


    Kg 108 7'7 8-1 6.8 6.8 9.0 7'0 4'0 4'7

    '55 g '40'5 g

    * Low in the social hierarchy, despite her size. She appears to be the least intelligent in the group.

    Table I . Humboldt's woolly monkeys, Lugofhrix Zagofricha, at Murrayton Woolly Monkey Sanc- tuary in their social order of rank.

    colony consists of I I Humboldt's Woolly monkeys (see Table I).

    The woolly monkeys live in a large indoor room, 64 sq. m, provided with ropes, beams, heated sleeping bunks, a highly polished asphalt floor, continuous supply of fresh water, and long wooden food trough raised off the floor. Localised heating (23.9"C) is provided along the three bunks for sleeping. The rest of the room, away from the relatively small areas occupied by the bunks, is kept at 15' to 18C. The monkeys are free to leave the indoor room through a swinging door, along a corridor cage and into an outdoor grass-floored enclosure. This is connected by ropes to a group of beech trees in which the monkeys are free to roam at all times. The monkeys are a secure social group, make no attempt to escape, and do not come down from the trees, except when they are in the grassed enclosure, which they regard as their territory.

    With such a relatively small group of 11 monkeys, in spacious quarters and living a semi- natural life, there is very little destructive activity. All the ropes at Murrayton, indoors and outdoors, are ringed at both ends and though they have been used constantly for 14 years, they show little sign of wear - unlike the ropes in zoo cages which are often destroyed by monkeys as there is little else for them to do. With plenty of space and plenty to do, monkeys are not nearly as destructive as their reputation would have us believe. Even the blankets with which they play and often cover themselves in their sleeping bunks have lasted for more than a year. They are washed and disin- fected weekly. They are rarely fouled with drop- pings, and when they are it is an accident. Given the opportunity, woolly monkeys will always defaecate from the high beams away from their sleeping quarters.

    In the wild, woolly monkeys must certainly eat large grubs and insects, rich in protein. At Murrayton they catch and eat moths and various


    insects. They also eat raw eggs. They sometimes catch small birds, which they eat. They eat a few beech leaves, a little grass and a little earth. However, we provide the bulk of their food. Apart from the usual fruits and vegetables, such as oranges, apples, pears, raisins, sultanas, lettuce, celery, and cress (but no beetroot or onions), the following are also important ingred- ients in the diet of the Murrayton colony: lightly cooked eggs, grated cheese, butter, meat, fish, cereals, semolina, rice, coconut, brazil nuts, mealworms, liquorice roots, blackcurrant juice, orange juice, condensed milk, cows milk, cocoa, Virol (vitamised malt extract). We also give them lightly cooked meat (lamb or chicken is preferred) which has to be be fed with roughage. We mix ground hemp into the meat, which they relish. If the hemp is not included Samba, for example, will climb onto the kitchen dresser and wrap the meat or cooked egg into a paper hand- kerchief, and eat it like a sandwich.

    Food should be available to monkeys at fre- quent intervals throughout the day. The colony at Murrayton requires two keepers in almost constant attendance, working in two shifts (0800- 1500 and ~ ~ o o - z z m hours). Special food items and drinks are given throughout the day; the bulk of the food is fed at least four times daily. Faeces and urine are removed every two hours and the indoor room is hosed, cleaned and disinfected every morning. Even with our small colony of 11 monkeys in an area as large as the Murrayton environment (4 acre), constant feeding and scrup- ulous cleaning are necessary. Although the Murrayton conditions may be ideal when com- pared with those of monkeys in zoos, their environment is essentially a controlled and captive one; for this reason our system of feeding and cleaning is very important.

    The examples and pressures of social and biolo- gical behaviour that can only occur in a colony or family group are essential in all species of primates for health, social development and reproduction. Few if anyzoos are able to provide the necessaryen- vironmental conditions to maintain a breeding colony of woolly monkeys. The animals they ac- quire are almost invariably either desocialised, six- monthald isolates, or hand-reared pets, im- printed on their owners, that are given to the zoo when they become mature and bite them. If animals such as these are combined in a restricted area to

    form a group, the dominant male becomes a despot and a hierarchy cannot be established peacefully.

    At Murrayton there is scope for exploration and leadership. With plenty of space and plenty to do, the hierarchical disputes are resolved peacefully and serious fighting rarely occurs. There are trees to be tested and explored, foliage, insects, grubs, and moths to be found and sampled. Buzzards fly overhead. Storms, gales, snow and frost bring variety and tension into the semi-captive life of the monkey community, as do the sounds of owls, foxes and other animals. These all play their part in helping to consolidate the group.

    Four of the woolly monkeys (Lulu, Jojo, Django and Jessy) arrived from the Amazon at the age of 2) years, and must have already experienced social disciplines in their original wild environment. A social order of rank and communal play activity in a semi-natural or natural environment are virtually indispensable if the animals are to reproduce. In the confined conditions of most u x l s there is not sufficient space to establish a breeding colony without the animals becoming aggressive with each other; and if a pregnant female is isolated, there is less likeli- hood of her rearing her young successfully outside the disciplines of the social group. Equally, few species of tropical monkeys can withstand living outdoors throughout the year in England, and unless large, heated indoor quarters are available, island colonies should not be attempted.

    Proof of the success of the environment we provide for the woolly monkeys at Murrayton was the birth of a male baby at 0600 hours on 17 April 1966. As far as is known, this is the fourth recorded birth of Humboldts woolly monkey in captivity (one was born at Baltimore Zoo in 1954, another in 1956, and one at Zurich Zoo in 1965). A female baby was later born at Murrayton at 0700 hours on 23 November 1966 to Jessy.

    Humboldts Woolly monkey becomes adult at about eight years of age. Menstruation occurs every three weeks and each period lasts three days. Oestrus starts 10 days after the last day of menstruation and lasts for three days. Copul- ation is almost continuous during this period and frequently continues beyond the three-day period almost until the beginning of the next menstrual period. The younger males (aged three to four) are sexually interested in the oestrous female, licking and caressing her, and making

  • 88 B R E E D I N G

    copulatory movements, usually without successful penetration.

    The gestation period is 7+ months. Lulu was 10 years old when her baby was

    born and Jessy six years old. They stood on all fours during the birth, looking round from time to time and investigating the birth with their hands. The first stage of parturition took three hours; thesecond stageof actual delivery took about 15 minutes. During the birth of Lulus baby all the other monkeys (including the male parent, Jojo who watched with more concern than the others) gathered round, some within 2 m, peering at her with great interest. They made no sound, apart from an occasional eelk (an emotive cry indicating all is well). They did not interfere. The impact of the birth on the group confirms the importance of colony conditions.

    As soon as it was born the baby clung instinc- tively to the mother. She brought it round to her front and cleaned it scrupulously. She nibbled at the umbilical cord and removed it on the evening of the day of birth. She took no interest in the placenta.

    Two hours after the birth, Jojo approached Lulu and embraced her in a most human way. Since then he has remained close to her and the baby, rarely leaving her longer than for a few minutes at a time. He ha