L.A. Zoo Celebrates Lunar New Year with New Francois’ Langur Family

CONTACT: L.A. Zoo Press

February 4, 2016



Media Invited To View Baby Tao and His Adopted Family on Exhibit Together in Time for Year of the Monkey – Friday, Feb. 5

L.A. Zoo Francois' Langur Family (Photo By Tad Motoyama)

L.A. Zoo Francois’ Langur Family
(Photo By Tad Motoyama)

The Los Angeles Zoo is excited to celebrate the Lunar New Year on Monday, Feb. 8 by inviting guests to visit its diverse collection of monkey species from around the world. What better place to herald in the Year of the Monkey than at the L.A. Zoo where guests can view the curious, innovative, and mischievous animals that make up one of the twelve animal species which appear in the Chinese Zodiac.

Perhaps the most heartwarming and inspiring group of monkeys that reside at the L.A. Zoo is a newly blended Francois’ langur family which came together after a long journey to reunite an infant monkey named Tao with his troop after a dramatic birth. Deemed a “miracle baby” by his animal keepers, the slender monkey with orange and black fur, a long tail, and striking eyes was born on August 15, 2015 but tragically lost his mother during childbirth.

Animal Keeper Stephanie Zielinski found the newborn Francois’ langur in the troop’s holding area the morning after his evening birth. Seeing that his mother had passed away and he was in need of immediate care, she quickly placed an emergency call to the Zoo’s veterinary team and began warming the baby. Animal care and veterinarian staff needed to stabilize the baby and make some very important decisions regarding his future within the troop with his mother being gone.

The thriving baby spent a month in the Zoo’s nursery until he was strong enough to begin the lengthy process of rejoining the troop. “The goal is always to get primate infants back to their mothers as soon as possible,” said Zielinski. “Ultimately this allows for a much greater chance at a successful integration and life back into the troop. The major challenge here is that we lost Tao’s mother, so we had to see if the other female would take Tao on as her own.”

Animal care staff was confident that resident female Mei-Chi would endear to baby Tao as she is gentle in nature and has been a mother to two infants before coming to live at the L.A. Zoo in 2009. Staff fed Tao his bottles while simultaneously getting the rest of the troop used to Tao’s presence in the near vicinity. After this process yielded encouraging results, animal care staff began allowing protected contact with Mei-Chi, encouraging her to touch and groom Tao for brief amounts of time. But, as Francois’ langur infants often nurse from their mothers for close to a year and Mei-Chi would have no milk to nurse, it was vital for animal care staff to teach Mei-Chi how to bring Tao up to the fence so that animal care staff could feed Tao his bottles throughout the day. Both Mei-Chi and Tao progressed quickly in learning the new process, and at two months old Tao was given full contact with Mei-Chi behind the scenes.

“It was clear at this point Tao was pulling away from our care giving and was ready to be with new mother Mei-Chi full time,” said Zielinski. “It has been beautiful to watch their bond grow strong and very real. This has been one of the biggest challenges of my 21-year career as an animal keeper here at the Los Angeles Zoo, and it’s so gratifying to see this unique situation turning out exactly as we hoped it would for this miracle baby and his surrogate mother.”

To add to the already delicate process, another female named Vicki Vale arrived from the Memphis Zoo in November 2015 and was introduced to Tao as well. It is common for this species of primate to share the care of raising infants, and Vicki Vale naturally began passing Tao back and forth with surrogate mother Mei-Chi and participated in a cooperative strategy for raising Tao. The final step was introducing the father Francois’ langur, Paak, back into the group. He had been kept in a separate but adjacent space from the others so the female’s bonds could deepen with Tao while still allowing him to observe the group. Paak took to infant Tao nicely, and the group became a blended family, coming together after a delicate five month introduction process due in part to the hard work of the dedicated animal care staff.

Francois’ langurs are a slender black monkey with long tails that can be found in the wild in southern China and northeastern Vietnam. They split their time between the trees and the ground while eating a diet consisting primarily of shoots, fruits, flowers, and bark. Francois’ langurs are currently listed as endangered on the International Union of Conservation of Nature Red List due to deforestation and being hunted for use in traditional Asian medicines on the black market.

Guests can now view infant Tao, Mei-Chi, Vicki Vale, and Paak in their habitat next to Tiger Plaza daily, weather permitting.

Year of the Monkey – Francois’ Langur Family Media Debut

Friday, February 5, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027

Media staff should park in the Zoo’s south lot near the public bus circle, and a Zoo staff member will transport them to the Francois’ Langur habitat.

To RSVP or request photos or video, please call (323) 644-4273.

About the Los Angeles Zoo
The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is located in Griffith Park at the junction of the Ventura (134) and Golden State (5) freeways. Admission is $20 for adults and $15 for children ages 2 to 12. The Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For information, call (323) 644-4200 or visit the L.A. Zoo Web site at www.lazoo.org.


# # #