From the European Zoo Nutrition Center Newsletter

October 2009

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Woolly Monkeys


Diabetes Mellitus, Hypertension, or...?

Diabetes Mellitus, Hypertension, or...?


At the Primate Park Apenheul, Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, over 20 species of primates are kept in colonies of various sizes, some of them roaming freely and mingling with the visitors. One of these captive colonies consists of 17 Woolly Monkeys (Lagothrix lagotricha). The individuals are hybrids of the four subspecies of the woolly monkeys (L.l. lugens, L.l. cana, L.l. poepiggi and L.l. lagotricha). Because it is difficult to successfully manage Woolly Monkeys, there are only a few zoos left where this primate species is kept. The EEP participants are Apeldoorn, The Netherlands; Basel, Switzerland; Bekesbourne, Great Britain; Romagne, France; Twycross, Great Britain; Wareham, Great Britain and Yokohama, Japan. The EEP population Woolly Monkeys counted only 72 animals at the end of 1999. In the beginning of the year 1999 this was 84 (F. Rietkerk et al, editor, EEP Yearbook, 1998/99, EAZA Executive Office).

Woolly Monkeys are affected with various health and reproductive problems. In 1998, 16 Woolly Monkeys died and with only 5 surviving offspring in 1998, the EEP population had reduction by 16% compared to the status on 1 January 1998.

Many females at the Primate Park Apenheul, The Netherlands, show a reduced bodyweight during pregnancy and abortions without obvious reasons are seen quite often. Those offspring that are born at the Primate Park Apenheul frequently died at a young age. The body sizes of the young Woolly Monkeys born the last years at the Primate Park Apenheul are all considered as normal. With this decrease of bodyweight in pregnancy and high numbers of abortions, a healthy pregnancy state is highly questioned (Personal comments Jens, 2001)

Complications that arise are very similar to those of diabetes mellitus and hypertension in humans and are usually pronounced during pregnancy (Vermeer, 1993). The Woolly Monkey may be genetically predisposed to develop these conditions, but stress, unsuitable accommodation, the composition of the diet provided or pregnancy could also be involved (Verrijdt et al, 1997).

A summary of the present status of the project:

The Woolly Monkeys at the Primate Park Apenheul are disposed with diabetes mellitus, hypertension or a combination of these two. However, the points for attention during medical examinations should be signs of these health problems there is not enough accurate information available to be sure about these assumptions. The information needed should be collected through proper medical examination.