by Sarah Speer/FONZ
In August 2003, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo welcomed a pair of black howler monkeys (Alouatta caraya) to the outdoor enclosure of the Small Mammal House.
Visitors to the Zoo (as well as a few Zoo neighbors) can hear the spine-tingling roar that the monkeys emit—a cross between a distant rumble and a growling lion. The curious creatures are a hit with Zoo visitors, as the two monkeys howl back and forth to each other and swing about in their enclosure using their grasping tail.
The monkeys came to us from the Tulsa Zoo and the Lowry Park Zoological Garden in Florida. During their standard 30-day quarantine, Reubin, a five-year-old male, and Jolla, a six-year-old female, were introduced to each other to resolve any potential incompatibilities. Since then, they joined the small-clawed otters and cusimanse in the outdoor enclosures behind the Small Mammal House, off Olmsted Walk, between the American Indian Heritage Garden and Gorilla Grove.
The howler monkeys came to the National Zoo as part of a Population Management Plan (PMP) organized by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA). Although threatened in their native South America due to habitat loss, the North American population of howler monkeys is at a sustainable level, so the AZA does not recommend that the monkeys breed at this time. However, howler monkeys in captivity typically live to be about 20 years old, so, in the future, the Zoo may be asked by the AZA to breed Reubin and Jolla.