Finding Love at Hattiesburg Zoo
By: Stephanie Buckley, Animal Keeperpublished Mon November 11, 2013
As keepers, we consider ourselves animal lovers. To us, this means more than just wanting to get close to and take care of tons of cool critters. It also means wanting to make the animals we have as happy as possible. Recently, our special project has been our DeBrazza monkey.
As you take a stroll through our African area at the zoo, you will come across our DeBrazza monkey, sitting in his exhibit, looking like an old man sporting a dashing orange ball cap and a handsome goatee. He is pretty cool! But what does it take to make him happy? Like most primates, DeBrazzas have specific things that they need to keep them content, such as space, stuff to climb, things to keep them entertained and get into, and social interaction. So let’s take a look at our DeBrazza exhibit. Plenty of space to run around, check! There is a lovely tree and plenty of perching and ropes for him to climb on, check! Oh look, there’s a sand box with treats buried in it! And he will more than likely have some sort of toy to interact with, check! But wait! What about the social interaction?
Let’s take another look at the exhibit. If you look closely, VERY closely, our little buddy is not alone. Darting about the enclosure, excellently camouflaged, is what appears to be a baby deer. He is in fact a Blue Duiker, the smallest species of antelope and our DeBrazzas companion. In the wild, duikers have a special relationship with primates. They will often follow troops of monkeys around, and eat the fruits that they drop. While our DeBrazza may not always share his food with this little guy, they do share a very special bond, stronger than anything they might form in the wild. These two friends spend their days chasing each other, playing tag, grooming, and even snuggling up together. Social interaction, check! Well, sort of. While the bond these two share is great, we would like to do even better. Like I said earlier, we want to make our animals as happy as possible. What do boys love more than food and spending time with their buddies? The ladies, of course. So we decided to bring him just that.
We hope you’ve noticed that we’ve been having a bit of fun with this guy. We imagined what it would be like if he had to go try to find a female in this modern age. So, we’ve put some words in his mouth, and he has been quite the comedian! But, it’s all in good fun, and having fun is a part of looking after him.
So now there’s a new girl in the neighborhood, and she’s a sweet little thing. Our new female DeBrazza is here, and she will be meeting her new beau this week. We can hardly contain our excitement! We have been working hard, doing everything we can to get the new couple happily settled together. She has been introduced to the duiker, we know how important it is to have the friend’s approval, and he’s given us the thumbs…. Uh… hooves up! They have had a few rendezvous through the fence, but this won’t keep our bachelor satisfied for long. We will soon be releasing them out on exhibit together for the first time, and we all hope the sparks will fly. So cross your fingers with us, and wish our Romeo good luck!