When Spartacus met Jenny
Martin Luther King Jr once said 'love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend' and whilst I would be inclined to agree with this, after almost a month of working with Sparty and Jenny, I might also add that a prolonged amount of time and a relative amount of sexual desire can also have the same effect in howler monkey relationships.
I came to Wildtracks at the beginning of March and have been working with Spartacus (Sparty) and Jenny for a month now. As far as relationships go, theirs is fairly Yin and Yang, both having such differing but incredible personalities. When they were originally integrated together as a pair, shortly before I started work with them, Jenny was shy and seemed in all respects overwhelmed by Sparty. For a monkey who had spent most of her life as a pet in solitary confinement, to be housed with a monkey with such a big, bold personality must have come as a total shock. At the start he would command all attention from whoever was in the enclosure with his usual playful antics and she mostly kept away, or went into the top corner and swayed, a behaviour that seems to help her cope with stress. At times when Jenny did come down from the higher branch for attention, Sparty would chase her away - and this is how it stayed for the first few weeks. After the initial slow start, each passing day has brought new progress.
They went from two monkeys who actively avoided each other, to sitting on the same branch, eventually even eating the same browse. Jenny would occasionally decide to leap out of nowhere with all the stealth and speed she could muster just to shove Sparty's tail off a branch- and he would fall to the floor, looking up gormlessly wondering what had just happened.
Then came the crowning glory of their relationship thus far. The day Cupid came calling on their enclosure and I was fortunate enough to witness them mating, or at least Sparty giving it his best shot. For two monkeys who had up to this point shown very little interest in each other, they seemed to be getting on very well that day and it was all smiles and sultry glances.
Since then there have been a few more lustful moments but there are still more steps to take before they become truly comfortable with one another. There are still jealousy issues over attention and only a little playful interaction, but I am looking forward to spending the next 3 months watching and helping the relationship blossom. There are plans underway to introduce them to at least two other monkeys to try and create a larger troop for their release which, fingers-crossed, will be next year!
Coming to Wildtracks and getting to witness such a turbulent but interesting integration is such a privilege. I don't know how I will manage back at home without the sounds of Yucatan black howler monkey's riling themselves up into a raging shouting match, howls blaring through the forest in the middle of the day. If ever there was a sound to send only the most welcomed shivers down your spine and leave you with the warmest smile on your face, it is the call of howler monkeys!
Published by: Zoe Walker at 2014-06-11 18:10:59 [Link to this article]
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