By Marjorie Pepin
It’s February, and love is in the air at the Houston Zoo. But can love withstand the test of time? That question not only applies to humans, but to animals, too!
A few of our monkey couples have managed to last longer than most human marriages, and that’s a big deal! We have some primates in our collection who, through thick and thin, have been together for seemingly forever. Holding the record for being our longest lasting couple are a pair of Colobus monkeys named Caesar and Bibi. Together for twenty one years, this old couple has been through it all. Each of them has battled multiple illnesses and age (Caesar is the oldest colobus monkey in captivity at the ripe old age of 32) with their companion right by their side. Despite their old ages, they will still slap fight each other on occasion, but most often they are seen hugging and wrestling on the comfortable blankets placed for them to rest on. Other monkeys who have been long-time mates include a pair of De Brazza’s guenons who have been together for nine years and have produced two offspring. We also have a pair of lemurs, a Red-fronted lemur and a Crowned lemur who have been companions for six years.
For some it’s instant attraction, but others take time to build their relationships. In some cases they can also lose interest in their partner after a period of time. Just ask Zenobia. She’s our female Coquerel’s sifaka who was introduced to a male named Dean a few years back. Sifakas are a type of lemur found on the island of Madagascar. These two got along really well for a few years and raised two boys together. After their second infant was a year old, Zenobia started snapping at Dean, and their continued tension led us to separate the pair. Even though we made efforts to reintroduce them, it seemed there was no way to rekindle the lost bond.
Shortly after, Zenobia took new arrival Gaius as her mate. After three years and two babies together, Zenobia and Gaius have found comfort and balance with each other. It also helps that Gaius respects Zenobia as the “boss” (females are dominant over males in the lemur species). It just goes to show you that even in the animal kingdom, it takes a little trial and error before you find “The One”.
We will be welcoming a new family to our Zoo very soon. A family of gorillas which consists of Zuri, Holli and their daughter Sufi. Zuri and Holli have been together for sixteen years, and Zuri has always preferred Holli over any other females that were in their group over the years. Their daughter, Sufi, was born in 2001. They will be the newest addition to our groups of long lasting primate relationships.
So this Valentine’s Day, the monkey business we call love continues to flourish here at the Houston Zoo.