Update 1/6/20: Overnight on New Year's Eve, Molly went into labor and gave birth to a male. Unfortunately, the baby was stillborn. We are saddened by this loss but grateful for the knowledge we acquired during Molly's pregnancy. Molly is doing well, and our keeper staff is giving her an abundance of comfort and care.
Back in July, the Zoo’s primate keepers discovered that one of our three female spider monkeys, Molly, was pregnant. While the news was exciting, the keepers had started planning for a baby long before the discovery.
Mexican spider monkeys are critically endangered in Central America’s rainforest due to habitat loss and destruction. Nashville Zoo is committed to saving this species by supporting the Rainforest Awareness Rescue Education Center (RAREC), a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon. The Zoo has also been chosen to participate in the Species Survival Plan® for Mexican spider monkeys, a program developed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining captive population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable.
When the Zoo’s Spider Monkey: Treetop Passage opened in 2017, four monkeys were introduced into their new habitat. Sandy, the only male in the group. Poppy, Sandy’s half-sister, and two other females, Chloe and Molly. Keepers hoped the last two would mate with Sandy. Molly did just that.
Keepers trained Molly to come to a certain area and push her stomach against a small opening in return for treats. This eventually allowed the Zoo’s veterinarian to ultrasound Molly’s baby bump and record her progress.
There is very little information on the fetal development of this species so the animal care team relies on similar species to gauge Molly’s progress. With this information, the primate team will be looking for a baby spider monkey near the end of this year or in early January.
Once born, the baby and mother will spend time quietly off exhibit to establish a close bond. The baby will cling to the mother’s belly for the first 6-8 months before beginning to explore on their own. If all goes well, Zoo guests can look for the baby this coming spring.
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