Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Betty’s Blog 2nd to 16th October 2011

Betty continues to thrive in her new environment, taking very well to every member of the troop and not really favouring one over another. She still enjoys her times with young sub adults Peter and Jaklini, and with youngsters Ice and Charlie, and with adult females Mirra and of course mum Tibi. But I’ve also seen her patrolling the fence with alpha male Miga, which is quite a sight. Miga is emerging more and more as dominant male, since we reintegrated him slowly into the troop, in the same programme as for Doreen. This allows each of them time to readapt and take on the roles they should always have had, had the younger members of the troop not given them such a hard time and prevented them from doing this previously.

Miga has gained a great deal of weight since we readjusted their food quantities, his bald patches have now disappeared and with this, his confidence is now shining through. He still has his moments, but I’m confident he will continue going from strength to strength now and assert himself more and more as he realises his size, strength and power over the rest of his troop. It was thus a wonderful sight to witness when Betty took to his side to patrol at speed and authority with him.

Betty patrolling the perimeter fence with alpha male Miga...
Betty patrolling the perimeter fence with alpha male Miga...
...foraging with surrogate mum Tibi...
...foraging with surrogate mum Tibi...
...and later with good friend Jaklini
and later with good friend Jaklini

I saw Doreen earlier today sitting side by side with Tibi in a spot of welcome shade, with young Charlie close by. Doreen looked totally relaxed and at ease with Tibi. We’re still taking care when feeding, to ensure Doreen gets to eat the good bits and doesn’t wait until feeding is over to dig in. She continues to improve, though is not yet ready for the next individual to come out of the night rooms into the main enclosure. We continue to observe and judge when we feel the time is right.

Doreen grooming Tibi
Doreen grooming Tibi
Tibi grooming a slightly less comfortable Doreen
Tibi grooming a slightly less comfortable Doreen
A far more confident Doreen now choosing to sit with Tibi and Charlie
A far more confident Doreen now choosing to sit with Tibi and Charlie

The next individual we were intending on letting out to join the main troop was heavily pregnant Mary, sadly still in the night rooms, due to the same programme mentioned above. As you will see from the photo gallery below, Mary gave birth on Monday in the early hours, as all primates tend to do when able to.

Assuming alpha male Miga is responsible for this tiny white bundle of fluff, it would appear that he carries a white gene. Again, assuming Miga is the father of Mirra’s baby, since Mirra and Miga have lived together all their lives and are the dominant pair, Ice was also born completely white. Baboons are mostly born black, turning yellow brown after some months, whilst some will never change from being pure white. In the case of Ice, he developed some patches of ginger after about 3 or 4 months and slowly turned a completely gingery yellow brown. Mirra’s first born, Vanilla, on the other hand, was born black and is now the usual shade of a yellow baboon. Either Miga’s gene is a part time one, or Wezi had something to do with it...

A helpless baby, just a few hours old, losing grip
A helpless baby, just a few hours old, losing grip
Attempting to stand for the first time, almost unassisted
Attempting to stand for the first time, almost unassisted
Wondering what mum has in her pouches
Wondering what mum has in her pouches
A rather gorgeous baby
A rather gorgeous baby

On the day the baby was born, Mary did the rounds of her night room very regularly, introducing her baby to everyone who came to visit. In the first of these shots, you’ll see Mary being groomed by Mirra and Tibi outside, forgetting she now has a baby to take care of and leaving it dangling, desperately trying to get those weak little legs back up into mum’s fur once again. Mary was totally oblivious and enjoying the groom.

Mary’s a very nervous first time mum and was alone in her night room for the first few days. The keepers shut Jungle away from her when they saw the newborn baby, deciding to let her adjust to her new baby alone. I had to go away for the next few days and was concerned about opening up for Jungle and then not being around to check on what might happen. Friday I was back in business and spent a couple of hours observing Mary, Jungle and the baby and the interactions with everyone.

I watched Mary head to Jungle very often, where she would lean her back up against Jungle’s fence and allow her to groom her continuously, whilst Mary took a much needed sleep. The baby would leave her grasp and Mary would initially check beside her for Jungle’s arm which was at first hesitantly reaching to support and reassure the baby. Jungle made lots of submissive noises to let Mary know she meant no harm but was about to touch her baby. Mary dozed comfortably for several minutes at a time.

Mary gently holding her baby, sitting upright and alone for the first time,	holding onto the bars for further support
Mary gently holding her baby, sitting upright and alone for the first time, holding onto the bars for further support
Jungle’s reassuring arm reaching in from the left and Mary’s protective arm from the right
Jungle’s reassuring arm reaching in from the left and Mary’s protective arm from the right

Satisfied that Mary’s bond with Jungle was still strong, despite the newborn, I opened up for them to be back together in their two night rooms. Jungle was very nervous for the first 45 minutes, darting past Mary rather than greeting her. But later, they would hug each other fully around their middles for lengthy periods, reaffirming their bonds. Yesterday Jungle was still using the fence between their two night rooms as the necessary division through which to groom Mary. This morning however as I did my rounds, I was touched to see Jungle and Mary sitting together in just one night room, with no fences between them, Jungle comfortably grooming a totally relaxed Mary, face to face, with the baby happily between them both. The baby now has a devoted live-in Auntie, and Mary can now catch up on some sleep, safe in the knowledge that Jungle will be watching the baby for her in the meantime.

I feel I may have digressed slightly from Betty’s Blog, but hope you have enjoyed an insight into the newest member of Betty’s family. She still has two more to meet, who are currently in quarantine. This is partly because of the small space available in the night rooms, but also partly due to a potential health issue with one of them, which is currently being addressed. It is hoped that once this is resolved, Maria and Polini will join Betty’s new family group too.

To volunteer in Zambia, and help monitor the next troop of monkeys to be released back to the wild, visit: www.bornfree.org.uk/get-involved/voluntary-work/overseas/

Zoe Lapthorn,
Project Manager, Zambia Primate Project(formerly the Lunga Luswishi Wildlife Project)

Betty's rehabilitation

 

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906


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