Fuzzy lovers welcomed at the Zoo

February 4, 2008 3:31:09 PM PST
The Philadelphia Zoo is welcoming some of its newest residents. The two gray Titi monkeys are just part of the fan-fare. They were brought here separately, but they are now a couple, and they're expecting.

It's all part of the zoo's dedication to animal conservation.

Bellini and Marjorie Bell are 4 and 7-year-old Grey Bolivian Titi monkeys. These new Philadelphia Zoo tenants come via the Cleveland and Dallas Zoos. They are native to South and Central American rain forests.

They twist their tails to intensify their bond with each other. Chris Waldron, the Mammal Curator at the Philadelphia Zoo explains, "Animals do it all different ways. These guys just prefer to intertwine their tails ... We hold hands. Primates we're all alike in those ways. We're a social group."

The Titi Monkeys and a red panda have come to the Philadelphia Zoo as part of the species survival program involving zoos across the country who are interested in safeguarding against animal extinction in the wild.

"The habitat for most of these species is being lost at an alarming rate throughout the world. Some of these animals are being hunted to extinction. So, captive breeding programs are necessary," said Mark Hayes, Philadelphia Zoo Carnivore Team.

Zing Li's current companion, Sparkler, has lived beyond the red panda's typical life span of 14 years. When he dies, the energetic 2-year-old will be paired with a younger mate.

The monogamous Titi monkeys mate for life. This pair is expecting. She is in her third trimester and is due any day now. Offspring they produce over the years may go to other zoos or be eased into natural habitats around the world.

The parents will live here and be enjoyed by millions.

Jan Stuetz of Willow Grove says, "Chances that we'll get to leave the country to see different animals is tough. So having them here at the zoo is great opportunity for our children."

The Titi's and other animals in the species survival program are getting a preemptive strike against extinction.

They're considered vulnerable, which means that if conditions continue with a lot of deforestation and habitat destruction there's a chance they could become extinct in the not too distant future," said Chris Waldron.