The birth is also the first in this group since the unexpected death of Molly in April 2008, the Zoo’s previous female black howler who died shortly after giving birth to her son Diego. Diego was subsequently hand-reared by keepers and then reintroduced into the group. Just as a human baby needs round the clock attention and feeding, monkeys are no different and keepers had to sacrifice sleep to ensure two hourly feeds went on through the night.
Meryl joined the group from Twycross Zoo in October 2008 and with Kiko from wild stock, keepers were keen to try and get a new blood line into captive collections as well as a sibling for Diego. As Lorna Hughes, Head Keeper for Primates at Edinburgh Zoo said, keepers are delighted with the newest arrival:
“After the sadness attached to Diego’s birth we are thrilled that this time around this youngster will have its mum to rear him and we’ll have less sleepless nights. For Diego, it is good for him to see the normal rearing process within the group environment and also for him to have a new playmate.”
Found in the Forests of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, the black howler monkey’s name comes from its loud territorial calls – the volume of which is increased thanks to an enlarged bone in the animal’s throat making a ‘howl’ audible from two miles away. For the first few months, mother and infant are inseparable and the infant remains firmly attached to mum. As the baby becomes bigger, the keeper who discovered the new arrival will then choose a name for him.
Infants are born with their coats a buff colour like their mums. They remain this colour until they reach sexual maturity and males will then turn gradually black. It is likely that once the infant reaches this age he will then move on to a new animal collection where in turn he may start his own family.