The howler monkey is one of those animals whose reputation precedes them. As the moniker suggests, these small primates are known for their distinctive blaring call. However, the howler monkeys at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo are not living up to their name; most of the time they remain quietly dozing in the treetops.

Originating in Central and South America, howler monkeys have the loudest call of any land mammal. In fact, howler monkeys can be heard from nearly five kilometers away; yet that is not the case with the zoo’s family of Arnie and Gemima, their daughter Galia and granddaughter Zifir. The pair have three other children – Dani, Hugo and Viktor, who have since moved to other zoos.

Howler monkeys have a strict color-coding system; the males are black and the females are blonde. Although all young howler monkeys start off blonde, the males become darker as they mature, making identification easy.

Howler monkeys are known to be slothful, but this family spends all its time relaxing in the sun and barely making a squeak. Zookeepers believe that the silence is due to the fact that there is no territorial threat to the monkeys in their enclosure. In the wild, the monkeys use their calls to mark their territory and warn off intruders, whereas at the zoo there are few perceived threats. However, old habits die hard, and the howlers will still give a shout when they feel the need. At the zoo, this is usually in response to a roar from the neighboring lions or as a warning to the zoo’s sightseeing train as it rumbles past on a circuit of the grounds.

Howler monkeys have a prehensile tail, meaning they use their tails to grip branches for support or if one hand is otherwise occupied, such as eating or other manual activities. Unlike other monkeys, howlers never swing from one branch to the next, preferring to take a more sedate hand and tail motion to move around. The monkeys eat fruit that keepers hide in the trees to keep them occupied throughout the day, and they rarely descend to the ground.

The howler monkeys can be seen all day long at the zoo and, if you‘re lucky, you might even get to hear them, too.
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