A case of monkey kidnapping at Darling Downs Zoo

IN CARE: Ronnie the baby rhesus macaque being hand-raised at the Darling Downs Zoo.
IN CARE: Ronnie the baby rhesus macaque being hand-raised at the Darling Downs Zoo. Samantha Oneil

WHEN a 24-hour-old rhesus macaque was stolen from his mother by another monkey, Darling Downs Zoo staff were forced to intervene.

With night falling and no progress, the decision had to be made for staff to handfeed the baby as the mother refused to take him back.

"She had another baby that was about one year old at the time, so maybe that was why she wouldn't take him," owner Stephanie Robinson said.

"She is an experienced mum who has had about 12-13 babies.

"The monkey that took him is only about two years old and she started to try to give him back but his mother just wouldn't take him."

Ronnie, his mum and the other baby were separated from the rest of the group to no avail.

"Ronnie wouldn't have lasted the night so we had no choice but to intervene," she said.

Ronnie has been bottlefed since and is now about eight weeks old.

"We give him S26 lactose-free formula, four times a day," Mrs Robinson said.

"To start with we had to feed him every two to three hours to catch him up."

Ronnie is growing and feeding well, demanding the odd top-up feed at night and starting on some solids.

"If you are late, he'll tell you. He's got a good little temper," Mrs Robinson said.

"Sometimes at night he won't settle so we have to give him another little top-up feed."

The staff plans to bottlefeed Ronnie for about six to eight months depending on his progress and hope to reintroduce him to a group in the future.

Mrs Robinson said mothers normally fed the babies for about a year.

"He is already taking some solids, which is a good step," she said.

"The goal is to raise and get him back into a group eventually.

"It is much easier to introduce a baby into a group of monkeys than an adult, as the baby is at the bottom of the pecking order anyway so there is less friction."

Mrs Robinson said the rhesus macaque was native to India, with the zoo's family arriving with them about 10 years ago.

"They are one of the most researched species as their diet is similar to humans and so they adapted to human enclosures easily," Mrs Robinson said.

While Ronnie is not on public display, the rest of his family can be viewed at the zoo.

Located at Pilton, the Darling Downs Zoo is open from 9am-4pm during Queensland school holidays.

For more information phone 4696 4107.

Topics:  darling downs zoo editors picks warwick

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