Rare Macaque ‘Ahsoka’ Arrives At Drusillas
PUBLISHED ON 13/12/23
We are thrilled to have welcomed a critically endangered Sulawesi crested black macaque to our troop, with the arrival of beautiful new female, Ahsoka.
Ahsoka arrived at Drusillas Zoo on 13th November last year from Chester Zoo, as part of the international breeding programme for the species. Welcoming another macaque to the Drusillas family is particularly special because the species is classified as being under the highest level of threat to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Seven-year-old Ahsoka joins the zoo’s existing pair, male Moteck and female Lintang. Male macaques are happiest when they have more than one female in their 'harem', so the hope is that Ahsoka’s presence will give Moteck a boost in confidence and encourage his mating instincts with breeding female Lintang.
Zoo Animal Manager, Mark Kenward, commented: “Ahsoka is a very sweet, gentle girl and we’re starting to see her settle in and find her place within the group. Macaque introductions can be tricky as the species adheres to very strict hierarchal rules, so our team have been very closely monitoring the behaviour of all three, taking turns on ‘macaque watch’ and reporting back on the body language we’re observing.”
“The dominant male in any macaque group, in our case Moteck, needs to very quickly assert his authority over new females so there’s often a bit of a ‘testing’ phase where he may seem like he’s being a little rough, but this is totally normal behaviour to help him establish whether the new arrival will slot into place. After this initial testing we have seen lots of lip smacking and grunting– good signs of friendly communication – and Lintang and Ahsoka have been mutually grooming each other which is perfect. The group now seems very calm around each other and we’re looking forward to watching the bonds form between them.”
The introduction will continue to be carefully monitored for some time by the Zoo’s expert team, so they were able to observe any potential warning signs of upset in the sensitive hierarchy.
Drusillas Zoo Business Manager, Sue Woodgate, said: "It's very exciting to welcome Ahsoka and to see positive signs of her settling in. A successful introduction is not only cause to celebrate for our own team, but for the wider zoo community too, as we all work collaboratively on our conservation efforts to ensure the future survival of endangered species such as this. We feel very privileged to be able to care for another macaque and have everything crossed that we’ll be welcoming a baby this year to boost the population further."
The Sulawesi black crested macaque is categorised as critically endangered in the wild, and is one of over 20 different endangered and rare species living at the East Sussex Zoo. Sadly the macaque population has declined by 80% over the last 40 years. The principal threat to their survival is over-hunting for meat. In Indonesia the macaque is considered a delicacy, and is often served for special occasions. Deforestation is another major threat to the species, with large areas of their habitat now being cleared for coconut plantations, garden plots and roads.
Many of the animals at Drusillas are involved in breeding programmes, often monitored by studbook keepers. Primates, in particular, are a cause for concern due to the threat of extinction in the wild. Drusillas is proud to be doing their part to safeguard the species and ensure that these amazing monkeys do not become extinct.
As well as hopes for breeding success, Ahsoka’s arrival will allow both visitors and keepers at Drusillas to gain more of an insight into how macaques live in groups, raising awareness of this wonderful species, so that more visitors will engage with them and understand their plight and the importance of conservation.