GaiaZOO Kerkrade (NL): Tjerk ter Meulen, curator / ESB-coordinator

Tjerk ter Meulen, curator GaiaZOO
Tjerk ter Meulen, curator GaiaZOO

Tjerk ter Meulen: "Genetically, it is a win-win situation."

High pitched alarm bells started ringing when Tjerk ter Meulen, European stud bookkeeper (ESB) for Lophocebus aterrimus (black-crested mangabey), found fifteen year old ‘Joachim’ at AAP:
“Yes, in 2006 I was looking for an adult male to add to an all-female group at GaiaZOO. But, a rescue animal? Of unknown origin? I simply was not sure about his social skills,” Tjerk explains. ”Would he manage to cope with GaiaZOO’s strong willed five female clan?”.

Joachim
Joachim

A visit to AAP’s facilities in Almere convinced him otherwise. Joachim proved to be a good looking strong male, comfortably living with three male hybrid guenons. Tjerk: “He behaved as he was expected to: dominant and highly present. I therefore decided to let Joachim become the new leader of the group at GaiaZOO.”

Fact: in the last ten years 18 ESBs and EEPs were involved in rehoming rescue animals from AAP.

As the vice-chair of EAZA’s Old World Monkey taxon advisory group (OWM TAG), Tjerk feels it is important to keep an eye on endangered African and Asian primates arriving at AAP. “It is always interesting to give some thought to the potential benefits these animals can have for international breeding programs. It is a win-win situation: the animal in question quickly finds a new home in a social setting, and it could bring (often unexpected) genetic benefits to aid the preservation of the species’ ex-situ population.”

Mangabeys and gorillas in the outdoor enclosure
Mangabeys and gorillas in the outdoor enclosure

Black-crested mangabey Joachim did quite well in this respect: he successfully sired three offspring before sadly passing away in 2010. The oldest one (2008) now lives with two females in another zoo: the other two (2010) are still in their parent group. Tjerk: “Introducing Joachim took much longer than I hoped: our females did not intend not make him feel very welcome. Only after a full year we felt comfortable to declare the introduction completed. But, from that moment on Joachim was indeed a proud group leader. I regularly saw him enthusiastically defending ‘his’ females against the nosy gorillas that shared his exhibit.” Tjerk did noticed a few skirmishes between the male mangabey and the reigning silverback, but soon these behaviors changed into a peaceful co-existence of both species.

Tjerk looks back: “I am very glad that GaiaZOO could provide rescue animal Joachim with a few ‘happy’ years. I am sure that he enjoyed life to the fullest whilst being with us. He was a good leader and loved to be involved in raising his offspring. And, his genetic contribution to the European stud book has been of great value for the long run. The legacy of this individual will continue to play an important role in safe guarding the future of his species.”

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