1-week-old Francois’ langur goes on display at Toledo Zoo

Tam, a baby male Francois' langur monkey, tries to escape the grasp of his mother, Ashes, in the Primate Forest area at the Toledo Zoo. Tam is a week old.
Tam, a baby male Francois' langur monkey, tries to escape the grasp of his mother, Ashes, in the Primate Forest area at the Toledo Zoo. Tam is a week old.

A tiny baby born last week at the Toledo Zoo is now on public display in the Primate Forest.

The male Francois’ langur born Jan. 17 has been named Tam — pronounced like “Tom” — which means “heart” in Vietnamese.

The baby is the sixth born to a female named Ashes and her mate, Dong Puong, at the zoo. Both parents arrived at the zoo in May, 2000, on recommendation from the Francois’ langur Species Survival Plan, a cooperative breeding program coordinated by the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Mike Dilley, curator of mammals, said Ashes has been a good mother to her new little one.

“It’s an ideal situation for us because the young female here, [Ashes’] last birth, can witness how a child is raised now,” Mr. Dilley said. “She’ll end up being a good mom too because of that.”

The baby is predominantly orange, a sharp contrast to the other monkeys’ long, black fur with white highlights on their cheeks.

Biologists believe the baby’s differing color at birth would help it blend in with the foliage of tree canopies in the species’ native habitat of Vietnam, southeast China, and central Laos.

Tam is very alert and is already trying to escape his mother’s protective grasp to explore his surroundings.

“In six months’ time, the baby will be all dark and jumping around,” Mr. Dilley said. “Come spring, this is going to be a really cool exhibit because of him.”

Fewer than 2,500 Francois’ langurs are estimated to survive in the wild, with hunting and habitat loss contributing to their status as an endangered species.

Tam is the 68th of his species spread across 17 institutions in North America.

“This is an early birth for the year,” Mr. Dilley noted. “We usually have them when it’s closer to spring and they can go outside.”

Andi Norman, director of public relations, said all babies at the zoo are bred intentionally as part of species survival plans. Tam was the result of a breeding recommendation by the association.

“It shows off the Toledo Zoo,” Ms. Norman said. “It says a lot that experts within the field have enough respect and confidence in our expertise here to entrust us with these animals to breed them.”

Babies of any kind are usually very popular with visitors and zoo staff.

“It helps us draw attention to endangered species like this because people are attracted to babies,” Ms. Norman said. “And hopefully they’ll learn something about the species.”

Mr. Dilley said langurs in zoos across North America are doing very well.

“They are one of the better-managed species with a lot of genetic diversity,” he said. “Toledo has been very successful over the years with them.”

The number of Francois’ langurs born each year in captivity varies.

Mr. Dilley estimated there are typically eight to 12 breeding pairs recommended each year by the association. Not all are successful.

Tam will stay close to his mother for nine months to a year. He may eventually be transferred to another facility as the langurs traditionally are kept in groups of several females with a single male.

“It’s hard to say this early, but chances are that he’ll probably go someplace else,” Mr. Dilley said. “We have our established dominant male here.”

The Francois’ langurs will be on display Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays indoors as part of the zoo’s regular rotation of primates.

Contact Alexandra Mester: amester@theblade.com, 419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.