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Welcome to Monkey Jungle’s Amazonian Rainforest--the only semi-natural tropical rainforest in North America.
Monkey Jungle's Rainforest is so successful because Mr. Frank DuMond spent over 5 years collecting different species of plants, trees and palms from the Amazon rainforest in South America. Most of the plants collected came from within a 100-mile radius of Iquitos, Peru.
The monkeys that live here roam as they please – with no direct control by humans. Visitors, students and researchers can observe monkeys behaving as they would in the wild, without having to travel to distant lands. This makes our Rainforest a great place for scientific study and training ground for young scientists and conservationists. Some of the many studies conducted here have received international attention.
Three species of monkeys reside in the Monkey Jungle Rainforest...
The most abundant monkey in our Rainforest are the squirrel monkeys. About 125 of them live here. These little guys have made Monkey Jungle internationally famous in the scientific community.
At one time, squirrel monkeys were imported extensively into the United States as pets and research animals. Other zoos and research facilities often noticed that their monkeys were not having many babies – unlike Monkey Jungle. Through study of the behavior and ecology of the squirrel monkeys at Monkey Jungle, Frank DuMond discovered a key to their reproduction. For most of the year, squirrel monkeys live in single sex groups. Much like at a young teenage dance party, the guys hang out together separate from the girls until they get up the nerve to approach the girls. It is even trickier for a male squirrel monkey because the females are the dominant sex. The reason you see them together now is because they've come to feed at the common feeding stations...after they feed they go their separate ways. At Monkey Jungle, January and February is the time of year when the girls and the guys get together for the breeding season. At that time, the males go thru a biophysical change that causes a weight increase of almost 20% and makes them look like little body builders on steroids. This fattened condition results from a surge of hormones in the male bodies. They become more aggressive and are able to work their way into the female group, whereas at other times during the year the girls would beat them up!! Once the breeding season ends, the males lose their added weight and size, shrinking down to normal. The females kick the males out of their group and go on to bear their young.
They are the largest type of monkey found in our rainforest and as the name Black-capped indicates, they have black tufted fur on their heads.
This cap of fur is said be suggestive of the black peaked cowls of the Capuchin monks. Capuchins were once popular as organ grinder monkeys. They would stand on street corners or fair grounds and grind musical organs and beg for coins from the public. They are considered to be the most intelligent of New World primate and they often use and make tools in the wild. In fact, capuchins are being used in a pioneering program where they aid para – and quadriplegics. They are taught how to do many tasks that their owners cannot do, such as answering the door; getting food out of the refrigerator or books off the shelf; combing their owner’s hair; or turning the pages of a book. They, like howlers, have that helpful third hand: The prehensile tail. However, capuchins are very aggressive in the wild and will actively hunt for meat. Capunchins are often not well liked by South American farmers since they are notorious for raiding crops.
The howlers have their name owing to their loud vocalalizations. Actually it sounds more like a roar than a howl and it's a territorial call that a males in particular makes to tell the other animals in the forest that the forest is his territory. He's telling the others where he is and that they should stay clear! Females in his group will join making an extremely load chorus. This is a lot easier than fighting to maintain one’s territory. There are certain things that will set off our male, Jordan, such as low flying airplanes, thunderstorms...and also large groups of people in our Rainforest, as he perceives us as intruders in his territory. This howl, which can be heard a mile’s distance, comes from Jordan’s bony voice box, which looks like an oversized pouch below his chin.
Another interesting howler feature are the tails, which are prehensile (that is, their tails can grasp objects or grasp branches to support their full body weight). These grasping tails are only found in New World primates, monkeys found in South and Central America. The last 6-9 inches of the underside of his tail is just skin. This skin has fingerprints and each howler has a unique set of prints just as we humans have unique handprints. They can grasp objects as small as grapes so their tails function as third hands. Pretty handy when you live all your life in the trees.