In 1998, the exhibit known as Howler Junction became home to five Red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus). It was made up of two adults (Rifito and Princessa) and three juveniles (Beto, Angela and Raquel). Over the years, troops have shared the exhibit with various mammals, reptiles, birds and many species of plants and trees. With howlers being the most folivorous of neotropical primates, it was difficult to maintain the exhibit to meet the needs of its many inhabitants.
The howlers were removed from Howler Junction and are now at home in Howler Heights, located high in the corner above the third level Jungle Café. Overseeing this territory is Beto, now the dominant male. He shares the space with Erica, an adult female (her mother was Angela), three younger females, and two young males (one less than a year old). Rifito and Angela live off exhibit and enjoy their semi-retirement area on the roof of the original aquarium building.
Providing plenty of leaves for their diet is not a problem. The problem arises when all the leaves are stripped faster than they can reproduce and the tree dies. It is difficult to continuously be removing dead trees and replacing them inside the rainforest. A 29-foot tall hand-sculpted, fiberglass “Chorisia tree trunk” is the focal point of the new exhibit. The howlers seem to be enjoying the vertical range in which they can now move about and are beginning to let their presence be known throughout the rainforest with their howling rituals being heard more frequently each day. Howler monkeys are named and known for their very loud howls at the beginning and end of each day – and anytime in between if they need to announce their location. They are reported to be the loudest animals in the New World and their howl can travel as far as three miles throughout the rainforest. Like humans, they possess a hyoid bone in the throat that in howlers is unique and has hollow sacs within the bone that helps resonate the loud sound. The hyoid, a horseshoe-shaped bone, is also unique in that it is the only bone not articulated to any other bone of the skeleton, instead being connected to the skull by ligaments and muscles.
The howlers at the DWA are most active in the morning but by early noon, they can be seen resting high in the tree or in the rafters. They are fed a second feeding around 2:00 p.m. and are often active at this time as well.