The newest member of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo family has spent the first few months of her life battling against some tough times, but she is growing and the keepers at the Central New York zoo are setting the precedent of care for an animal like her.

Late last week, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon introduced Iniko, a baby Patas monkey, as part of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo's family. Iniko is the first of her species to be hand-reared in human care, and it comes under circumstances that are all too fitting for 2020.

A press release from McMahon's office explains that not only was Iniko born on June 8 during a global pandemic, but that her mother, Becca, died during the birth, leaving her orphaned. While Becca had given birth three times before, she experienced difficult labor with Iniko and the zoo had to call in a specialist from Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine to perform an emergency C-section.

Iniko's tough circumstances granted her a Nigerian name that translates to "born in troubled times."

Onondaga County

While the first part of Iniko's life may have started rocky, she is now in capable hands. Husband and wife Dan and Leisje Meates, who work as the zoo's general curator and a zookeeper, respectively, took Iniko in and developed a formula that they take turns feeding her every two hours.

"Iniko is now 3.5 months old and that's how long it's been since Dan and Leisje had a good night's sleep," according to the press release.

Recently, the Meates have started to introduce Iniko to members of her Patas "troop" at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, and they have their eye on one monkey who would make a great mother-figure for young Iniko.

According to the press release, the zoo's director Ted Fox said that they hope the troop's dominant female, Sarah, will take Iniko under her wing. Fox said Sarah loves babies although she can't have any of her own anymore, and apparently Sarah's already shown an interest in Iniko in the small time they've spent together with a barrier between them.

Onondaga County

The press release states that zoo staff will be closely monitoring their experience hand-rearing Iniko in order to share this information with other accredited zoos in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. McMahon praised the Syracuse zoo's efforts to take on this first-of-its-kind project that will benefit Iniko and many other animals to come.

"Our world-class zoo has been at the forefront of groundbreaking research on many endangered and threatened species, and their experience raising Iniko may ultimately help save other primate species," McMahon said. "Thank you to the entire team, especially Dan and Leisje, for their efforts caring for Iniko and all of the amazing animals at our zoo."

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