About Author: Jasmine Almonte

Posts by Jasmine Almonte


New Additions: Monkeys, Otters, Pigs

Spot-nosed guenon Indi hanging out on the swing in the lower exhibit

I just wanted to update everyone on some of the changes that are happening in Lost Forest at the San Diego Zoo. If you remember reading my older posts, Monkeys, Otters, and More and More about Monkeys and Otters, some of the same animals are still monkeying around in their current exhibits.

In the lower mixed-species exhibit, we still have our Allen’s swamp monkeys: Kinah, Deriai, Layla, Shaba and Nub. Our little juveniles are growing up so fast and still love to hang out with our spotted-necked otters from time to time. The spotted-necked otters currently in the lower exhibit are Mzee and Lila; however, you are not going to see them together. Mzee is Lila’s father, and we keep them separate so they don’t breed. Consequently, we rotate the two otters on exhibit, so one day you will see Mzee going down the water slides and Lila wrestling with the swamp monkeys the next. The otters don’t seem to mind at all!

You might also see some new faces in the lower exhibit, ones with blue faces, white cheeks, and white spots on their noses. These are our three, new spot-nosed guenon siblings: Indi, Chi-Chi, and Tiko. The first few weeks on exhibit, they were inseparable. They were like three monkeys in one. Wherever one went, the other two followed. You will see this close-knit behavior on exhibit. Indi and Chi-Chi are the two females. Indi has a little more meat on her bones. You will most likely see her try to take over any food situation. Chi-Chi, the smaller female, lets Indi eat her portions to keep their hierarchy balanced. But don’t worry, everyone gets enough food on and off exhibit. Tiko is the larger male spot-nosed guenon and loves to be groomed by the females. You will see him stretched out on one of the platforms with his legs and arms hanging down in such bliss. Every once in a while they interact with the swamp monkeys, but they definitely like to stay close to one another.

Spot-nosed guenons Indi, Chi Chi, and Tiko

In the upper exhibit, our adorable Allen’s swamp monkey pair, Jaribu and Ota, are doing great. Patty and Abu, the spot-nosed guenons who were in the lower exhibit last year, are now in the upper exhibit to accommodate our new arrivals. You’ll see Patty and Abu way up top in the trees where they like to hang out. Haraka and Spike, the spot-nosed guenons who used to be in this area, are now in the mixed-species area of Lost Forest with the mandrills and Angolan colobus.

And do you remember our charismatic Congo buffalo, Helen? She is still striding around the exhibit checking on what everyone else is doing or just relaxing in the back catching some Zs. Some of you might recall our spot-necked otter Khalil. He was paired with a female to start his own family and now resides at a different zoo. His mother, Pori, now inhabits the upper exhibit side. Mother otters in most cases isolate out the older daughter, and fathers isolate their sons after maturity due to competition for breeding. This is why Pori is housed alone as of now. If we get a breeding recommendation to breed Pori, then she may be paired with a male. For now, we wait and enjoy her company with the rest of the animals in the upper exhibit.

African spot-necked otter Pori grabs a fish in the deep pool while Jaribu watches.

Last but not least are our red river hogs! Helen’s red river hog friend from last year, Oboi, was transferred to breed with females at another zoo. Now Helen has some new friends to snuggle with. Our new additions include Hamela and Amy. A little shy at first, they warmed up to our older red river hog residents of a couple of months, Tarzan and CT. Talk about an inseparable foursome! You will love seeing this cuddle fest in the back of the exhibit. All four pigs and Helen took to each other rather quickly. Even behind the scenes, Helen and the pigs share the same beds, making it a cute group of “red” sleeping together. Helen is such a mom figure to these piggies!

(Clockwise) Helen the Congo buffalo, red river hogs CT, Hamela, Amy, and Tarzan

Well, hopefully you can come down and enjoy the new company of animals as much as I do. I randomly toss treats to the critters in the late morning/early afternoon, so come by and say hi!

Jasmine Almonte is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.


More about Monkeys and Otters

Spotted-necked otter Khalil

Be sure to read Jasmine’s previous post, Monkeys, Otters, and More.

In the lower mixed-species exhibit, if you are a veteran visitor to these exhibits in the San Diego Zoo’s Lost Forest , you’ll remember our little hand-raised juvenile Allen’s swamp monkey female, Kinah. She just turned four in October, and she’s got tons of playmates. Kinah likes to kiss up to the African spotted-necked otter boys Mzee and Khalil (maybe she thinks they’ll let her borrow some of their fish). Sometimes they’ll play “tag, you’re it” as Kinah tags the otters’ tail to catch their attention so that they can chase her.

Swamp monkey Layla

Along with Kinah, we also have three other juvenile Allen’s swamp monkeys. Shaba, our sleek and rambunctious male, is growing up to be a fine young monkey. He still loves to jump, walk the tight ropes, chase and tease the other juvenile girls, Layla and Deiriai, or as we call her, Little “D”.

It’s all fun and games until Abu and Patty, our Schmidt’s spot-nosed guenon male and female step in. Patty is the oldest monkey in the exhibit, and at 26, she likes to tell all those kids who’s boss. She mostly keeps to herself, up high in the bamboo structure or with Abu by her side. But her spunky personality and old charm makes her a fan favorite.

Spot-nosed guenon Abu

Our third Schmidt’s spot-nosed guenon is Spike. She is a passive female who became quick friends with Patty. You will most likely see Spike and Patty grooming each other in the bamboo platform. Grooming behavior between primates stimulates social affection toward one another. Abu will also join in on the socializing, especially if he can get both Schmidt’s females to groom him!

Swamp monkey Deiriai

And finally, there is Nub; he is our charming Allen’s swamp monkey adult male who came to us from Metro-Richmond Zoo. Nub has a lot of patience hanging around all those swamp monkey kids. He is a quiet fellow who likes to keep to himself but will sometimes get groomed by one or two of the juvenile swamp kids. You will mostly see him hanging down by the grass, foraging or admiring the visitors at the waterway. He’s slightly pudgy, which is pretty normal in adult Allen’s swamp monkeys. His peaceful and happy-go-lucky nature make him a great new addition to our monkey family.

If you haven’t already, come to the bridge down in Lost Forest and check out the two interspecies exhibits for some crazy animal antics! If you come by between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. you might even catch me tossing fish to the otters or biscuits to the monkeys. I’m sure you’ll love their personalities as much as I do.

Jasmine Almonte is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.


Monkeys, Otters, and More

Jaribu and Oboi have a unique relationship.

I am the zoo keeper for the monkey and otter mixed-species exhibits in Lost Forest at the San Diego Zoo. Working with our lively bunch of animals for almost three years has brought me great joy. Being a zoo keeper for this particular group sure keeps me on my feet and my mind stimulated!  Trying to keep up with five different species in the same area and have them get along can be challenging, but it sure works out and provides for some amusing times.

Helen and Oboi enjoy each other's company.

Let’s take the upper exhibit, for example. We have Helen, our Congo forest buffalo, who is 33 years old! Normally they live 18 to 20 years in the wild and about 29 years in zoos. Don’t let her age fool you: she is a spry, sweet girl who loves to sun herself along the back of the exhibit. Sometimes you will see her with her best friend, Oboi, the male red river hog. They like to snuggle up together and catch some Zs. These two are like peas in a pod; with both of them being the same rusty color red, you can almost say Oboi is a bit like Helen’s Mini-Me. Every once in a while, you will see Jaribu, our male Allen’s swamp monkey, hang out with Oboi. Jaribu sometimes thinks he is a cowboy and will climb on Oboi’s back as if to ride him like a horse! Oboi doesn’t mind, as he gets a gentle back massage with the off-chance that Jaribu will groom him. It’s a pretty funny sight!

Jaribu is definitely our most courageous and amusing monkey. He LOVES to interact with our spotted-necked otter girls Lila and Shani. You will most likely catch him in the waterway wrestling and playing tag with the otters. It may look like a fight may ensue, but it is all horse play with Lila and Shani loving the attention.

Spot-nosed guenon Haraka

Jaribu is also a great “fisherman.”Allen’s swamp monkeys are known omnivores and can eat all types of fruit, leaves, insects, and even fish. So you might see Jaribu “go fishing” in the waterway to try and steal the otters’ fish that I toss for their midday feeding.

Jaribu’s mate, Ota, is a delightful, shy female Allen’s swamp monkey. You will also see her in the waterway and sometimes in the upper island hanging out with our male Schmidt’s spot-nosed guenon, Haraka. Don’t stare too hard at Haraka, though: he might give you a stare-down head bob, which is considered a threat to some monkeys and apes.

Check back soon to meet the animals living in the lower mixed-species exhibit!

Jasmine Almonte is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.