Confiscated monkey
adapts to new life

HILO » Former Honolulu resident Mike Little-Man is adjusting happily to his new home at the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo in Hilo, zoo officials report.

Mike is the 2-year-old squirrel monkey confiscated by state officials Oct. 7 from a home in Makiki because the owner did not have a permit for him.

After a waiting period to determine that he did not have tuberculosis, he was sent to the Hilo zoo at the beginning of November because the Honolulu Zoo has no monkeys like him. Squirrel monkeys like company.

In their native forests of Central and South America, the little monkeys, less than a foot tall with bright orange forearms, live in groups of up to 100.

The Hilo zoo had three squirrel monkeys when Mike arrived, all 8 to 10 years old, making them middle-age in their species' 15-year life span.

Upon the newcomer's arrival, the Hilo staff named him Mike, said zoo staffer Patti Carnie. Later they learned that his Honolulu owner had called him Little Man, so the staff settled on Mike Little-Man as his full name, Carnie said.

Mike was placed in the half-acre South American exhibit, where he met the resident squirrel monkeys, Bubba, Mr. All Alone and Auntie.

The exhibit also has anteaters and white-faced whistling tree ducks, both from South America, but also axis deer, which are from Asia. That's where Mike briefly ran into trouble.

Full of energy -- his age is about the equivalent of a teenager -- he tried to steal the deer's food and was quickly scolded by the resident monkeys, Carnie said.

Whatever their motivation was, the older monkeys were not concerned for the deer's welfare. They also steal the deer food all the time, Carnie said.

Mike also got his ears sunburned the first few days in Hilo, Carnie said. He had been indoors too much when he lived in Makiki.

Mike was used to living with a human, so while Carnie was concentrating on something else one day, he made a friendly jump onto her back.

He scared her and she shrieked. She scared him and he ran.

They both got over it.

The zoo's first squirrel monkeys came in the 1980s and 1990s, donated by the National Aeronautical and Space Administration in California, said zoo director Dick Mortemore.

Former director Lloyd Yoshina said NASA never explained why they had monkeys to give away. Carnie added, "They were not space monkeys."

Yoshina got no more than 20, he said. Some monkeys were born at the zoo, but a virus killed many, he said.

Unlike the other females, Auntie never was able to have babies, which is how she got her name, Carnie said.

So any hope that Mike will father a new generation of squirrel monkeys at the zoo will have to wait until the day a young female is donated.

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