Photos: First look at snow monkey born at Detroit Zoo

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
Japanese macaque born at the Detroit Zoo on April 23.

Royal Oak — Winter has passed, but officials are celebrating snow spotted at the Detroit Zoo this week.

Mother Carmen can be seen toting her infant around her habitat. The baby's gender isn't yet known, but zoo officials suspect it's a girl.

A Japanese macaque – also known as a snow monkey – was born early Tuesday morning at the Royal Oak zoo to mom Carmen, 16, and dad Haru, 6, bringing the troop total to nine.

The baby’s arrival marks the first snow monkey birth at the zoo in 13 years, officials said in the birth announcement Thursday.

“Mom and baby are doing well,” said Scott Carter, chief life sciences officer for the Detroit Zoological Society. “Carmen is a first-time mom, but she’s attentive and doing everything she should. The baby is fully furred and alert and can sometimes be seen clearly when Carmen puts her down in the grass for brief periods.”

The newborn’s gender and weight are currently unknown as she is held close by her protective mom, but animal care staff suspect she is a girl. Carmen carried the baby for 173 days.

Carmen was born at the Detroit Zoo in 2002 and Haru arrived in 2016. The duo were paired as part of a breeding recommendation through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, which maintains genetically healthy populations in accredited zoos and aquariums.

Mother Carmen was born at the Detroit Zoo, while father Haru, 6, arrived in 2016.

Snow monkeys are threatened by habitat loss as the forests of Japan are converted for human use, zoo officials said. Japanese macaques have complex social dynamics, including a social hierarchy based on family.

"Learning from Carmen and the other adults will be very important to this little one’s development," Carter said. "Carmen is one of the highest-ranking females in the troop, so this baby will enjoy the privilege of her family’s status as she grows up."

Japanese macaques adapt to dramatic temperature changes similar to those found in Michigan. In the wild, they are drawn to naturally occurring hot springs; the snow monkeys’ Detroit Zoo habitat includes a hot tub to imitate their habitat.

The snow monkey diet includes leaves, fruit, berries, seeds, small animals, insects and fungi. The troop at the Detroit Zoo also receives treats such as raisins and cereal hidden throughout the habitat, which requires them to forage for food as in nature, officials said.
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