Sunday, March 21, 2010

ZOO Essay

Essay on Zoo

I visited the St. Louis Zoo on 16 November 2003. I took off work early since it was such a lovely day outside. I thought the 55-degree weather would be perfect for a day at the zoo. I arrived around 1:30 p.m. to find the zoo filled with people of all ages, mainly children. When I arrived in the primate house, it was not as busy as I thought it would be. I take it people, especially the parents, did not want to stay in there any longer than needed. For me, my journey would not end until 5:00 p.m.

I looked around at a few different types of monkeys. I wanted to observe the baboons since they were so energetic but I had heard that many people chose to observe them. My eyes were drawn to the long black and white tails that were merely perfect that belonged to the Black and White Colobus Monkeys. I lucked out because there happened to be a bench right in front of the cage. I placed my book bag down and began my work.

The Black and White Colobus Monkey or the Colobus guereza, belong to the Mammal category and the Primate Order. They tend to be in groups of around six. Usually the groups have one or two males. The monkeys from the zoo were from Africa. It did not give specifics on the description of the monkeys but I researched and found that the majority come from eastern Nigeria to Ethiopia and Tanzania.

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The Black and White Colobus monkeys at the zoo were about two and a half feet tall. The male baby monkey was quite smaller, about 16 inches tall. There were two female adults that were almost the same size as the male. The male, who was the father of the baby, seemed to be about two inches taller than the females. By looking at the monkeys, the adults looked to weigh around 45 pounds.

The monkeys have very small facial features. Their ears were also tiny but fit their body sizes. They have a long black and fluffy white tail that exceeds their entire body length. Their faces are surrounded by white hair that almost looks like a beard. The monkey’s backs are also covered with a strip of white, fluffy and long hair. The Colobus have white calluses that enable them to sit for long periods of time.

If I had to guess, I would say the baby was around two years old. I asked the workers but they did not know exactly. It did not have a pink face and was not all white like the young infants are. The Colobus monkeys mature between the ages of four and six and but it’s actions and size, it was nowhere near that age. The baby still acted like a child and was more playful than the other three monkeys.

What I found interesting were the eating habits. I was lucky enough to observe the monkeys being fed and how they reacted. Needless to say, they were hungry. The monkeys were fed lettuce and long stalks of celery. I also observed them munching on what appeared to be twigs. The father and only adult male was very distant from the females and the baby. He sat in the upper left hand side of the cage on a rock fixture whereas the other three sat up on the right hand side on rock fixtures near branches. I focused most of my attention on the male because I found him most interesting. He would pick up the celery, stare at it for a while, and then break it with his incisors and take a bite. He would also look around as if he was protecting his food. He was very careful when he was eating. After he broke off a bite smaller enough to fit in his mouth, he would chew for at least 20 times with his molars and then swallow. The male would never lay the rest of the celery on the rock, he would hold it with his right hand.

The females did not seem to be as worried about their food as the male. To me, they seemed like they ate faster and were preoccupied with the baby. Unlike the male in the group, once they finished, they moved locations to the center of the display near more branches and limbs. The male kept venturing down to get more celery but would always return to his original location. What I noticed about all four is that while they ate, they held their feet with their one open hand. I think it was comfortable for them or their feet itched. The only time anyone shared was with the baby. The father held his hand open with celery in it and offered it to his son.

After about an hour, the baby boy came to his father’s corner. He mocked everything his father did. After what seemed like a command, the baby laid down and the father searched and cleaned him of any bugs or other pests that could have been on the baby. He also cleaned under both his and his child’s nails. The father patted and rubbed the baby and then the baby went to be with his mother and “aunt.” The father went back to leaning against the back wall and holding his feet.

I never observed any of the four monkeys in a bipedal position for more than one minute. They traveled on all fours making their front hands scoop the ground as they walked. I observed that their fifth toe is much longer than the others and looks like a finger. It is at a 90-degree angle from the other toes. I think this must give them balance and allow them to move with more ease. They acted more like a dog than a human if I can make that relation. Often, the monkeys would scratch their ears and other parts of their head with their feet. Maybe the toe was good for scratching behind an ear.

Since the monkeys have a digestive system that uses bacteria to detoxify and digest leaf matter, the monkeys have very little energy thus resulting in light activity. The four Colobus monkeys sat in the same location for 30 minutes or more at a time. As I mentioned earlier in my paper, the male was, the majority of the time, sitting or laying in the corner. He often laid with his hands crossed and his head resting on them. The “aunt,” as I call her, sat rested on what was a rope bridge for several minutes on end. I thought she would lose her balance or become uncomfortable but it didn’t phase her. It was interesting because the two females argued and fought with each other. One (we’ll call her A) pulled the other’s hair (B) over and over again. A kept taunting B until B finally hit back and jumped at A. This was all in the presence of the child. (It was also the most interesting thing that happened all day!)

From my time spend at the St. Louis Zoo, I became very familiar with the Black and White Colobus Monkeys. They are not very active but also interesting. Like in any family, they have distinctive qualities such as grooming and eating patterns. The father, though distant, loves his son and “wife” very much. The glances across the room showed he cared. The mother and aunt were very close and loving to the baby. I did not expect the monkeys to pull each other’s hair. That was very appalling.

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