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April 19, 2022

First Monkey Born Since Primate Canopy Trails Opened at Saint Louis Zoo

Press Release

Baby Ficus sits in Mother Cecelia's arms. Credit: Saint Louis Zoo

A male Guereza colobus monkey (Guh-REZ-uh KAH-luh-bus) was born at the Saint Louis Zoo on March 21, 2022. The baby, named Ficus, can be seen with his family group at the Primate House or Michael and Quirsis Riney Primate Canopy Trails. The name continues a theme of tree-related names that Ficus shares with siblings Juniper, Willow, Hawthorn and Teak. The 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. Since 2011, there have been 11 successful colobus births at the Saint Louis Zoo.

Ficus, is the first monkey born at the Zoo since the opening of Primate Canopy Trails, a 35,000-square-foot outdoor expansion connected to the Primate House. The Zoo is excited to be able to offer baby and mom, along with the rest of the colobus family, access to this outdoor space, providing the primates with valuable time in nature, sunlight, and fresh air.

“With the addition of Ficus, we now have a family of nine individuals, which is the largest group we have ever had at the Zoo. It is so fun to watch the family dynamic play out in this large family! The older siblings are learning necessary behaviors for becoming great mothers or fathers one day,” said Brooke Johnson, a primate keeper at the Zoo. “One-year-old Juniper is learning how to share her mom with her new baby brother and is incredibly curious yet very gentle with him. Big sisters Binti (8) and Willow (6) continue to be great babysitters and can be seen frequently holding their baby brother while mom Cecelia finds food or enjoys a grooming session from dad Kima or one of her sons. Ficus is already very adventurous, practicing his walking away from Mom and watching his older siblings chase and play. It won’t be long until he’s joining them!”

Colobus infants are born with all white hair and a pink face. In contrast, adults are primarily black, with white hair encircling their faces and half of their tails and a distinctive mantle of long white hair around their shoulders and backs. An infant’s hair coat will change gradually until they reach adult coloration at about 6 months old.

Colobus mom Cecelia, 22, is the dominant female in the group of five males and four females. The experienced mother of seven is taking great care of her newborn. The new baby will stay with mom for nursing and sleeping, but all of the females in a colobus family will take turns holding and carrying the infant when mom is busying eating or socializing. The father, Kima (KEE-muh), 16, can be seen watching over his family and interacting with the youngsters.

The Guereza colobus monkey can be found throughout the forests of central Africa. Although fairly abundant in the wild, this species is increasingly threatened by deforestation for timber and loss of habitat to plantations and agricultural land, as well as illegal hunting. People can help protect the colobus monkey and other wildlife with some simple steps: reduce, re-use, recycle — in that order; use Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified wood and paper products, and use rainforest-friendly coffee, such as Rainforest Alliance Certified.

Saint Louis Zoo (314) 781-0900
Billy Brennan (314) 646-4633;
Christy Childs (314) 646-4639;
Kirby Ewald (314) 646-4945;
Megan Pellock (314) 646-4703;

Media photo opportunity: The best opportunity for media photos/video of baby and mom today, Tuesday, April 19, is between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. They may be in the outdoor Primate Canopy Trails habitat or the indoor Primate House habitat. Please call a public relations representative for assistance.

Photos/Video: Click here for a video of Ficus on YouTube; Credit: Saint Louis Zoo

Ficus Monkey

Baby Ficus stands near Mother Cecelia. Credit: Saint Louis Zoo