The Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society family of animal residents has grown by one tiny new life. On October 8, Luna, a 12-year-old squirrel monkey, gave birth to a healthy baby in the wee hours of the morning. This is the first squirrel monkey birth at the Zoo since 2011 and the first for this troop.
“The animal care team has been diligently observing Luna and her baby over these crucial first days, and we are pleased to report that mother and baby are doing well. The troop has happily accepted the baby as one of its own,” said Mike Terrell, Palm Beach Zoo’s general curator. “Every birth at the Zoo is unique. This one was a full team effort, from the primate staff, animal care team and a special assist at the end by the Zoo Ranger security detail.”
Since squirrel monkey births generally take place overnight, the nighttime security staff at the Zoo was asked to check in on Luna over several key nights. Brittany Taliaferro was on rounds the early hours of Thursday morning and spotted an extra small monkey in the habitat. Squirrel monkeys are a small new world monkey weighing only about two pounds and one foot long. A baby squirrel monkey is tiny, only weighing a few ounces. They cling to their mothers immediately after birth and look like a fuzzy backpack.
“Being a security guard at a Zoo comes with some unique responsibilities. It was my honor to enact our protocol and let the animal care team know we had a new birth overnight,” said Zoo Ranger 7 Taliaferro. “The team told us which nights were most likely for Luna to go into labor, and what to look for.”
The dedicated and knowledgeable team at the Zoo has been working with the troop and hoping for offspring over the last few years.
“This is the best possible outcome,” said primate zoologist Devin Clarke. ”Luna came to Palm Beach Zoo in November 2018 and was introduced to the troop in December. Since she is the only one among the squirrel monkeys who is able to get pregnant, we have been providing enrichment and safety to help encourage natural instincts since her introduction.”
Squirrel monkeys are not currently listed as endangered, however their wild habitats in South America are being threatened by deforestation. They also have a dicey history with humans, as many ended up in the pet trade from the 1940s-70s especially in Florida. They were offered as an ‘adorable pet and companion. Almost human...’ according to a vintage newspaper ad selling them for $18.95. What the ad failed to mention was their unhuman-like traits of marking their skin and tail with urine to leave messages for other monkeys on your furniture and clothes. They also are social creatures preferring to live in large groups and languishing in homes as solitary pets. Many pet monkeys were released into the wilds of Florida and developed five unique populations. In 2020, only two of these wild populations remain.
At Palm Beach Zoo this troop is safe to exhibit all their natural behaviors and live as a cohesive unit, with one small addition. See the newest squirrel monkey in the habitat across from the jaguars in the Mayan Plaza every day.