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Like a Rock

Howler monkey father offers patience and protection to his small family

06/1/2016 - When one of the young howler monkeys uses their father Joe as a jungle gym, pulling on his face or jumping on top of him, Joe doesn’t bat an eye.

“He just sits there with the same face, no reaction at all,” said Shawn Bustos, zookeeper at the ABQ Biopark Zoo. “That’s just Joe.”

Joe, father of 2-year-old female LJ and 1-year-old male Howie, is tolerant and shows a lot of patience with his two rambunctious offspring.

At the same time, Joe is also extremely protective of his small family, which also includes his partner Fifi.

If Joe thinks there is cause for concern—possibly a new zookeeper to whom he’s not yet accustomed or a lot of noise in the Tropical America building where he lives with his family—he’ll display and howl to protect the group.

Often, Fifi and Joe sit next to each other, relaxing. They also howl together to announce their territory and their bond to each other. 

This bond was strong from the start. When Joe first came to the zoo and met Fifi, he followed her around and copied her behaviors.  

“He was instantly smitten,” said Jamie Ohrt, zookeeper.

Fifi is the dominant of the pair, but with his laidback demeanor, Joe is content to let her run the show. This keeps the family group stable and happy.

“They all cuddle up and sleep together,” said Bustos. “Everyone gets along very well as long as Fifi gets to be the boss.”