September 14, 2021
Mia and Bungee’s Big Move
Why two of Denver Zoo’s Most Well-Known Primates Have a New Place to Call Home
By Kristin Cotton, Primate Keeper
A trip to Denver Zoo isn’t complete without stopping by to say “hello” to our two black-handed spider monkeys, Mia and Bungee. Twenty-four-year-old Bungee was born right here at the Zoo, and was famously hand-raised as a young monkey. That close contact with humans in his early years has led him to be very curious and interested in his keepers, vet staff, and even guests. After moving into the Old Monkey building in 2013, he would “greet” Denver Zoo staff as they walked by which made him quite famous across the Zoo. Most people greet him by name as they walk by and get an enthusiastic spider monkey whinny in response. Bungee also has excellent facial recognition and can recognize his keepers and volunteers from extremely far distances.
Mia, Bungee’s companion, only arrived at Denver Zoo in 2015, but quickly became beloved by our staff and guests as well. At 26, Mia is an extremely sweet spider monkey and is especially skilled at utilizing her prehensile tail -- she can pick up something as small as a sunflower seed! Mia loves to train with her keepers and loves puzzle feeder enrichment.
Once we knew their habitat was ready, it was time to shift our attention to moving Mia and Bungee. We decided to give them a full exam at the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Animal Hospital, and bring them straight from the hospital to their new home. Assistant Curator of Behavioral Husbandry Heather Genter and I trained voluntary injection behaviors for Bungee and Mia a year in advance to be able to inject them and sedate them for their exam. Having our animals work with us for healthcare behaviors makes it less stressful for them, and easier for our teams to do these exams safely and efficiently. Both exams went well, and Mia and Bungee were off to their new home.
Releasing Bungee and Mia into their new exhibit was an extremely exciting day for the primate team! Mia came out first and slowly took in her new large surroundings. Bungee quickly followed Mia, with his beloved stuffed crab, Quatro, in hand. Our team shed many happy tears watching them explore and enjoy their new home. We laughed as we watched the pair investigate this new habitat. Bungee was quick to walk on the new mulch, but Mia must have thought it was lava at first and stayed away. It was hilarious watching them trying to locomote on the new rope; they were very wobbly and unbalanced at first! After several hours of exploring their new space they both settled in for a much-deserved nap. We were so elated and relieved to see them thriving after so much hard work and planning that went into the move.
Today, Bungee and Mia brachiate across the rope without issues and are loving their new home! Bungee still greets his keepers as they walk into work and whinnies at Denver Zoo staff as they stroll through Primate Panorama. Mia is now comfortable walking on the mulch but prefers to people watch from way up high in the exhibit. The “Old Monks” keepers visit and train them regularly and we are so excited and happy to see them in such a fantastic new home.
Remember, a trip to the Zoo isn’t complete without greeting Mia and Bungee, so make sure you take some time to come down and see them in Primate Panorama on your next visit!
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