First baby mandrill born at San Diego Zoo in 14 years

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — The San Diego Zoo reported Friday the birth of the first male baby mandrill at the facility in 14 years, part of a large and colorful monkey species.

Animal care staff had been watching for mother Kesi to give birth — but there were still no signs she was in labor earlier this week, according to the zoo. Staff members said they were surprised to see Kesi walk out of her bedroom holding her new baby.

"It’s like every day we would come in in the morning and think like there might be a baby — we don’t know,” said Jenny Baublit, senior primate keeper at the zoo. "To actually see it was pretty incredible. Especially since she came in so quietly, just like a typical morning, but just happened to have a baby with her.”

The so far unnamed baby is the first for Kesi and male mandrill Jasper. So far, staff said, they are doing "exceptionally well”  as new parents — and mom is being very attentive to the baby’s nursing needs.

Mandrills are easily recognizable by their furry head crests, manes and golden beards, and their bright coloration, with red nose and lips, and thick purple and blue ridges along the sides of the nose.

They live in small social units in the rain forests of equatorial Africa, according to the zoo. They often join others to form larger groups called "hordes” that can number in the hundreds, and sometimes have more than 1,000 members.

The species is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, with numbers decreasing because of habitat loss from illegal logging and the bushmeat trade. The hunting of wild animals for food has become a lucrative activity, making it a greater threat as human populations increase, according to the zoo.

The San Diego Zoo’s first mandrills, Peter and Suzy, arrived in 1923. More came 15 years later, and a mandrill breeding program was established in an effort to bolster the population. More than 34 mandrills have been born at the zoo and Safari Park over the years.

Guests can visit the zoo’s three mandrills on Monkey Trail in Lost Forest. They share an exhibit with guenons, including spot-nosed monkeys and Wolf’s monkeys.

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