Must-see monkey species for Lunar New Year holiday

2016/02/11 12:47:39 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
A common squirrel monkey at Taipei Zoo. Photo courtesy of the zoo

A common squirrel monkey at Taipei Zoo. Photo courtesy of the zoo

Taipei, Feb. 11 (CNA) Monkeys will be the animal people most want to see if they visit the Taipei Zoo during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, because this year is associated with the monkey, the ninth of the 12 animals in the recurring 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle.

There are 25 species of primates held at the zoo, and the chimpanzees, orangutans, gibbons, Formosan macaques, lemurs, patas monkeys and common squirrel monkeys are the must-see species, according to Taipei Zoo spokesman Eric Tsao (曹先紹).

The Formosan macaque is the only primate endemic to Taiwan, Tsao said. The species lives in groups and follows a matriarchal caste system, under which a group is dominated by an alpha male, dubbed by the Taipei Zoo as the "King of Monkeys."

The current monkey king in the Formosan macaque group at the zoo has been named by zoo staff as "Jung Ko (榮哥)." He can be easily spotted by visitors if they observe the interaction of the monkeys carefully, Tsao said.

Jung Ko walks with its tail raised high and eats before the other monkeys, he said. Also, while grooming is an important social activity among the macaques, the inferior monkeys will help their superiors by grooming them in order to gain favor, Tsao said.

As for lemurs, the zoologist said, there are more than 20 different species, all of which live on Africa's Madagascar Island and all of which protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Currently, Taipei Zoo is home to three kinds of lemurs -- the ring-tailed lemur, the black and white ruffed lemur, and the brown lemur, Tsao said.

Another must-see monkey at the zoo is the patas monkey, which are ground-dwellers distributed over semi-arid areas of West Africa and East Africa.

The monkey grows to 85 cm in length, excluding the tail. Reaching speeds of 55 kilometers per hour, it is the fastest runner among the primates, according to the zoo.

The last on Tsao's recommendation list is the common squirrel monkey, a species whose habitat is the dense tropical rainforests of Central and South America. Their long tails are not prehensile, but provide balance when they move through the treetops, Tsao said.

At Taipei Zoo, squirrel monkeys are displayed in the Children's Zoo area.

(By Ku Chuan and Elizabeth Hsu)

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