FOREST PARK – The family of colobus monkeys at the St. Louis Zoo is celebrating its newest birth, of a female named Juniper.
The baby, a Guereza colobus, was born on April 8. Colobus newborns have all white hair and a pink face; over the course of about six months, their adult coloring develops. Eventually they become mostly black, with white hair around their faces and half of their tails and a mantle of long white hair around their shoulders and backs.
Juniper’s mother is Cecelia, 21, who is the dominant female in the group of four males and four females and has raised five previous babies. One of the males is Juniper’s father, Kima, 15. Cecelia will keep Juniper close to her while for nursing and sleeping, but all of the females in the family will babysit.
“The new baby adds so much to the dynamics of the colobus group,” said John Velasco, a primate keeper at the zoo.
Juniper’s next-oldest sibling, Teak, is a year old and has to yield “baby” status, Velasco noted, phrasing the transition diplomatically as “gaining more independence.” He said that the other youngsters were learning how to care for a baby, as they mimicked behaviors of Cecelia and older female siblings.
The Guereza colobus monkey is native to the forests of central Africa and is threatened by loss of habitat as well as illegal hunting. Juniper’s birth is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Colobus Species Survival Plan, a conservation breeding program to manage a genetically healthy population of Guereza colobus monkeys in North American zoos. The St. Louis Zoo has had 10 successful colobus births since 2011.