The Houston Zoo’s primate caretakers got an unexpected discovery on Jan. 15 in the Goeldi’s monkey enclosure. A tiny baby monkey was found alone, perched on a branch. This baby was notably smaller than typical newborn Goeldi’s monkeys from South America, which usually weigh around 50 grams. This little one was only 34 grams, roughly the weight of a regular lightbulb. In comparison, the previous smallest hand-raised Goeldi’s monkey that grew to adulthood weighed 42 grams.
This pint-sized Goeldi’s monkey was named “Betty,” in honor of the late beloved actress and animal activist, Betty White, who passed away on Dec. 31. Over the next few months, Betty will be carefully hand-raised with round-the-clock veterinary care to help her grow strong and healthy.
When the zookeepers found Betty, they tried to reunite her with her mother, Kylie. However, Kylie, being a new mom, wasn’t responsive to the little one. Given the situation, the zoo shifted Betty, her parents Kylie and Opie, to their animal hospital. Currently, Betty spends most of her time in a special incubator to keep her safe and warm. The zoo is hopeful yet cautious about her survival.
In a video shared by the zoo, a clinic keeper named Amy discussed how Betty, being so petite, struggles to latch onto her mom for feeding.
“We’re providing her with feedings every two hours. It’s an all-day, all-night commitment,” Amy shared. “It’s truly a group effort to care for a monkey as tiny as Betty.”
Betty’s parents are staying close by in the clinic, with the hope that once she grows a bit, they can form a closer bond.
“We’re aiming for Betty to permanently be with her parents once she gains more strength and starts eating solid food,” shared Jessica Reyes, the zoo’s PR manager. The dedicated care team expects that hand-raising Betty will take over three months. During this period, she’ll always be in sight of her mom and dad, ensuring they bond as much as possible. The ultimate goal is for a healthy, fully-grown Betty to integrate with the zoo’s Goeldi’s monkey group.
Interestingly, Betty isn’t the first primate the Houston Zoo has taken under its wing. Last summer, the team nurtured Cleo, a ring-tailed lemur, who was a tad undersized and wasn’t holding onto her mother well. In helping Betty, the team is adhering to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan guidelines for Goeldi’s monkeys, a strategy that’s been successful with Goeldi’s monkeys in other places.