Swamp Monkey Checks Out Visitors

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Keeper Jasmine demonstrates the fun to be had at Ituri Forest!

Keeper Jasmine Almonte demonstrates the fun to be had at Ituri Forest!

It seems that Kinah never ceases to bring joy to all those around her, and lately, this has included her up close inspection of our guests visiting Ituri Forest. For those readers unfamiliar with Kinah’s life here at the San Diego Zoo, she is our little miracle monkey, hand-raised in the Children’s Zoo after a tough start in life. (See Nerissa’s previous blog, Springtime Monkey Business.) Through the dedication of our staff, Kinah became the strong, independent, and very curious little girl who delights her “fans” by getting right up to the glass for a visit!

Kinah inspects a Zoo visitor.

Kinah inspects a Zoo visitor.

One feature of our north exhibit is the large underwater pool viewing. With the help of some strategically placed logs, Kinah can now come right up to the glass to check out what guests are wearing, snacking on, or carrying in their backpacks. I often come to this spot during the day to encourage guests to show what they have stashed in their pockets or bags. Kinah especially likes children and their stuffed toys. And being true to her swamp monkey self, she’s fascinated by all things shiny and mechanical. Since she must be bored to tears with my fancy ballpoint pen, I help her search out new objects to wonder over hidden in the pockets of other people!

Kinah’s fan base at the window has now spread to the other members of the troop, and it is not uncommon to see Mr. Toad, or Karen, close to the glass checking out a guest’s sunglasses or silk scarf. Not to mention Kinah’s attention-seeking rival and little sister, Makonnen. Since Mak was raised by her mom, Bunzi, she tends to be more shy of people she doesn’t know. But with her big sister around showing no fear, even Makonnen slaps and kicks at the glass to get a cheer from the crowd!

Kinah demonstrates her skills on the floating donut.

Kinah demonstrates her skills on the floating donut.

I’ve also started adding new floating toys to this big pool, and sure enough, Kinah is now a master at directing the floating donut along the glass. The first time she got too far away from land for her to jump safely, I had visions of rescue dancing in my head. I had no reason to worry, though; Kinah happens to be a master of the cannonball! When she wants to get off of the donut but realizes she’s a little too far from land, she jumps as high and far as she can and lands with a big splash in the pool. Since swamp monkeys are very good swimmers, it takes her no time at all to leap back onto a branch and shake her wet coat all over her family!

So, next time you want some laughs and good, clean fun, come visit Kinah! But beware, you may not be able to pry yourself away if she’s anywhere near the floating donut!

Nerissa Foland is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.