At The Zoo: Seen but not heard

Jerusalem’s howler monkeys are surprisingly silent.

howler monkeys 311 (photo credit: Sasson Tiram)
howler monkeys 311
(photo credit: Sasson Tiram)
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 itstime relaxing in the sun and barely making a squeak. Zookeepers believethat the silence is due to the fact that there is no territorial threatto the monkeys in their enclosure. In the wild, the monkeys use theircalls to mark their territory and warn off intruders, whereas at thezoo there are few perceived threats. However, old habits die hard, andthe howlers will still give a shout when they feel the need. At thezoo, this is usually in response to a roar from the neighboring lionsor as a warning to the zoo’s sightseeing train as it rumbles past on acircuit of the grounds.
Howler monkeys have a prehensile tail, meaning they use their tails togrip branches for support or if one hand is otherwise occupied, such aseating or other manual activities. Unlike other monkeys, howlers neverswing from one branch to the next, preferring to take a more sedatehand and tail motion to move around. The monkeys eat fruit that keepershide in the trees to keep them occupied throughout the day, and theyrarely 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.