OUR regional zoo is not just house to animals such as big felines, giraffes and a range of gorgeous birds, it likewise houses several monkey types, including our planet’s biggest type– the mandrill.
The mandrills are native to jungles of equatorial Africa. Not to be puzzled with apes, such as chimpanzees and gorillas, mandrills are classified as monkeys as they have tails. This world’s biggest monkey types can reach weights of over 70 pounds.
Harold the mandrill is one of the more popular monkeys at the zoo. Harold’s facial and rear-end colours are as bright as a rainbow, with tones of reds, blues and pinks. These lively colours are unique of adult male mandrills which are said to be the most colourful mammals in the world.
Harold was born to mother Mary, the mandrill. Unfortunately, Mary abandoned her infant Harold at birth, possibly since there were no other mandrill mothers as exemplars. She was not quite sure what to do with this little animal to which she had delivered. This is where staff stepped in.
Raising infant Harold was my first hands-on project and it was the most unforgettable. Weighing almost four pounds, I held the tiny and helpless infant in my arms. He looked directly in my eyes. Harold was the most fantastic little animal I have actually ever seen! His eyes were intense and his face displayed a tinge of pink and light blue. His little fingers held onto mine as if he knew I was now his mother.
Child mandrills, like human infants, are dependent on their mother for food, shelter and protection. For the next few weeks, I experienced numerous sleep deprived nights as Harold required to be bottle-fed every couple of hours. Viewing this infant slowly go to sleep while comprehending onto his nursing bottle was a valuable sight.
As precious as he was and much like other infants, there was poop and lots of it. Having him in my care all the time and night, I required to handle the mess. The service– non reusable diapers and they worked like a beauty. However, putting on the diaper was no easy task as the energetic child not only had understanding forelimbs however hind limbs also.
Every day became an experience with this little monkey. I began understanding his behaviours through his communication design of utilizing facial gestures, vocalisations and body movement. I found out when he was comfortable, frustrated, exhausted, in a spirited mood or up to mischief. This youngster would even understand onto me, simply as young mandrills would their moms in the wild when moving through the forest. There was now a close bond between us which grew more powerful as time advanced. It is tough to take into words having actually seen this primate grow and develop right before my eyes.
Harold soon ended up being an animal ambassador as part of an education programme to enlighten the public about monkeys and their importance to ecosystems. Boy, did Harold delight in fulfilling households who visited. It was a perfect chance to communicate the message that local monkeys, like the popular capuchins and red howlers, are protected by local wildlife laws and one must desist from keeping as family pets.
As the months went by, Harold grew quickly in size. His canines grew longer and his strength increased. It was time for me to prepare him for life in his brand-new zoo home.
I noticeably remember the day I placed Harold in his enclosure. He was quite familiar with the display as we prepared for this day by getting him acquainted with his brand-new area from weeks prior. Harold was thrilled to swing on his ropes and jump onto the branches.
I saw the happiness on his little monkey face. Although I was overjoyed to see him enjoy in his new house, little did he know, I was now heartbroken to be separated from the infant I assisted raised. Tears filled my eyes – tears of both pleasure and sadness.
This year, Harold turned 10. He is now a full-grown mandrill and has actually developed all the vibrant colours which are the signature of adult male mandrills. A beautiful part of this experience is that this now-grown animal still recognises me as his mother. He anticipates my daily visits with his preferred deals with. I would frequently look at him and I think back about all the wholehearted memories caring for this once-little monkey.
Over the years, I have actually observed a comparable maternal instinct exhibited by my female colleagues as they took care of and nurtured many orphaned animals frequently basis. Having been a surrogate to infant Harold has not only been a most fulfilling experience but an invaluable one.
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