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Bridgeport’s Beardsley Zoo: Oldest howler monkey in capacity dies

January 24, 2019

BRIDGEPORT — Zuele, the oldest howler monkey in captivity who turned 32 last May, died earlier this week, according to an announcement from the Beardsley Zoo on Wednesday.

The Beardsley Zoo said Zuele, who called the Bridgeport zoo home, died Monday. But having made it to 32, Zuele well outlived the average life-span for howler monkeys, which is between 16 and 20 years.

“Zuele was a very charismatic animal, who touched not only her many caretakers over the years but guests as well,” said curator Rob Tomas. “Zuele would greet her caretakers every morning with a howler ‘chirp,’ saying good morning, and was always happy to interact with staff.”

Zuele turned 32 on May 27, 2018. The zoo threw a birthday celebration, including a cake made of Zuele’s favorite fruits.

Tomas said even when previous staff members visited, they’d always stop by to see Zuele because of her unusual personality for a black and gold howler monkey.

Howler monkeys are typically shy and not likely to interact with humans, but Zuele always liked to sit in front of her habitat and interact with the guest — offering high-fives by putting her hand up to the window.

“Zuele has left a positive impact on all of us and will be truly missed,” Tomas said.

Her age set her apart from other howler monkeys, including her companions in the zoo’s Rainforest Building — Kim and Cain. But her age also left her suffering from some of the same geriatric problems humans deal with, including arthritis and loss of bone density and muscle mass.

The zoo’s medical team and her animal care staff kept a constant eye on her and gave her consistent attention to make sure she lived her long life in comfort, the zoo said.

“Zuele was one of the most beloved animals in our zoo family,” said Gregg Dancho, director of the Beardsley Zoo. “I will certainly miss going by her habitat and having her give me her ‘smile’ every time I asked her for it.”

Howler monkeys are the loudest animals in the world, with a guttural howl that can travel for three miles through a dense forest, the zoo said. The species is under pressure from loss of habitat and being hunted for meat and for export for the illegal pet trade.