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Making a home for new François' langur family

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor with reporting by Carolyn Sellar, Zookeeper

Ding, the dad of the group. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Vegetarians sporting mutton chops? Welcome to Seattle, boys—you’ll fit right in! A family of François' langurs has just moved into the zoo’s Trail of Vines and their distinguished looks and playful antics are turning heads.

The all-male troop is led by Ding (age 17), the father of 5 rambunctious boys. As the elder, Ding acts as leader, peacekeeper and resolution maker. His larger head, balding spots and ruffled tail reflect the experience and wisdom he has collected over the years.

Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

The boys, Ya Ya (age 5), Tang and Petey (age 4), Zhang (age 2.5) and Bouncy (age 2), are in perpetual motion. The smallest and most mischievous is Bouncy. According to zookeeper Carolyn Sellar, “Bouncy is still young enough that he gets away with a lot more than anyone else. Bouncy will soon learn his place and proper monkey ways, but he still has a lot of time to be the wild and spontaneous youngster of this high energy group of boys.”

Bouncy, seen here in a behind the scenes area during standard quarantine. Photo: Carolyn Sellar/Woodland Park Zoo.

The rest of the boys each has their own personality, some more adventurous and confident, others more naturally reserved and cautious. But together they are a rowdy bunch and the first day in their exhibit put that into clear view for the keepers.

Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

After arriving and spending their initial days in a behind-the-scenes area for standard quarantine, the boys took their first steps into their outdoor home last week. They explored everything without hesitation—climbing, jumping, and inspecting everything they could get their hands on. The boys are truly bursting with energy and curiosity.

Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

It’s been an interesting transformation for them. At their previous home, the troop lived in a naturalistic indoor exhibit. Upon arriving here, we helped them transition to their new environment by first creating a dynamic, interactive indoor space for them behind the scenes filled with objects to play with, ledges to perch on, vines to jump across, barrels to tumble in, food to forage for, and mirrors to gaze into (those are some very handsome faces, after all!). As they settled in, they spent some time outdoors in a behind-the-scenes area where they could adjust to the sights, sounds and smells of their new home.

Ding in a behind the scenes area during standard quarantine. Photo: Carolyn Sellar/Woodland Park Zoo.

An up close photo of Tang in a behind the scenes area. Photo: Andy Antilla/Woodland Park Zoo.

It was clear right away that the boys were ready for the next adventure, so we put the finishing touches on transforming their large, outdoor home. The space was formerly occupied by the lion-tailed macaque group. Our two elderly macaques moved to a home behind the scenes at the zoo that is easier for their aging bodies to navigate, and where they can get up-close care from their keepers. The macaque exhibit was then made langur-friendly with the addition of many large and tall perching structures.

Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Forest natives from parts of China, Vietnam and Laos, François' langurs are arboreal and want to be high up in the trees. When you come to visit, be sure to look up.

In those treetops you might spot the langurs munching on greens. Leaves take long to digest but special adaptations, including large salivary glands and a complex, sacculated (compartmentalized) stomach, help break down the fibers to keep these folivores full of energy. Their backsides are specialized too. Look for their thickened rump pads known as ischial callosities to see how nature solved the problem of staying comfortable (and staying put!) while sitting on thin treetop branches for much of the day.

That treetop life means langurs are under threat of extinction as forests disappear. These endangered monkeys depend on thriving forests, and as habitat destruction leads to fragmented forest pockets, populations become isolated and vulnerable. Hunting for meat and some traditional medicines also threatens their long-term survival. It is estimated that the population has declined by 50% over the last 36 years according to the IUCN Red List. Protected areas in their native range have been created to address that trend.

Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Their dependence on the forest can be seen in the way the langurs here make use of every layer of their wooded home. Langurs love to forage and will spend much of their time exploring their home for treats—some naturally occurring and some scattered by keepers, including fruits, seeds and other plantings. You’ll see their natural social dynamics play out while foraging, as dad and then the older boys get first dibs. Well, except Bouncy. He still gets a free pass to the front of the line. For now.

We have no doubt many of you can see some of your family in this family. With Father’s Day right around the corner, there’s no better time to greet the boys in their new home.

INSIDER'S TIP: Coming up on Sun., June 19, 2016, enjoy 50% off for dad with the purchase of a child's admission when you mention this offer at any entry gate (not available online).

Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.