The San Diego Zoo’s primate collection began when our founder, Dr. Harry Wegeforth, went to the East Coast in 1923 and purchased pairs of several species from dealers. Our first guenons were lesser spot-nosed monkeys and Sykes monkeys received in an exchange with a German zoo in 1929, and a Schmidt’s red-tailed monkey came in 1930. L’Hoest’s and owl-faced monkeys were added to collection in 1960, with a young pair of the latter as gifts from the Leopoldville Zoo in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The San Diego Zoo was the first facility in the world to welcome a Diana monkey birth and the first in the US to have a L’Hoest’s monkey baby.
Today, the Zoo is home to five guenon species. They can be found in various enclosures in the Zoo’s Lost Forest and on Center Street. Lesser spot-nosed monkey Sassy is diabetic. Trained to accept daily insulin shots, she lives with fellow lesser spot-nosed monkeys Rachel and Lester.
The rest of our guenons share their enclosures with other species. For example, Wolf’s monkey siblings Dru and Amara live with two pygmy hippos, Elgon and Francesca. Amara and Dru love to hop atop a hippo’s back for a free ride or swim underwater right alongside them, which is unusual for a monkey.
Red-tailed monkeys live with Allen’s swamp monkeys and spot-necked otters live in one enclosure, while just across the path you’ll find red-tailed monkeys and with swamp monkeys with red river hogs, a forest buffalo, and a spot-necked otter. There’s never a dull moment in these mixed-species groups!
As logging roads open a way into the forests of equatorial Africa, guenons are one of the primary targets being hunted by humans for the illegal bushmeat trade. Often, guenon mothers are killed and their babies kept as pets. Dryad monkeys Cercopithecus dryas are at critical risk, the Preuss’s monkey Cercopithecus preussi is endangered, and others are vulnerable.