We first spot him exit a little house on a little island into the sunshine. He responds to calls from his keeper, but does not stay out for long. He takes a look around, issuing the typical high-pitched squeaks of a Capuchin, and soon returns indoors to his newfound family. The wind is chilly, and there is fooling around on ropes to be done with the other monkeys inside. The group includes another youngster, just a couple of weeks younger than Mally -- and she still spends much of her time on her mother's back.
Generally this is the case for at least the first year of a baby Capuchin's life. Her experience is in stark contrast to Mally's, who at just nine weeks became part of the Bieber entourage -- clinging to his famous pompadour. Mally's next mother figure became Jennifer Niewöhner, who is in charge of the monkeys at the safari park, and would work with him to teach him how to eat, climb and to a certain degree behave like a monkey.
And -- luckily -- the two seemed to develop a natural rapport. Monkeys, Niewöhner says, "pretty much choose their keeper." There are a few keepers that she can tell Mally doesn't particularly care for -- "They have never done anything to him, he just doesn't like them" -- but she suffered none of that. "Within about half an hour, it was clear it would be OK between us."
She says that every day, from about 6:45 a.m. on, she would spend time with him every couple of hours, with an extended session after work before she went home. Her first task was to teach him how to eat like a real monkey. "Monkey mothers chew up the food and feed it to their babies so I had to simulate that," she says. She would cut the food -- first grapes, blueberries, apples and carrots, eventually moving onto cooked eggs and chicken -- into small pieces and pretend to chew it before handing it to Mally. "He had to think I was eating it. The little ones will not later eat anything that they haven't had first from their mothers."
Mally was a quick developer -- he would very clearly tell her when she gave him a piece that was too big. "He would hand it back, pushing it towards my mouth," she said. Niewöhner spent a very intense five months caring for Mally. She used her experience (she'd once before led the close care of a spider monkey) and observations from her time watching the other Capuchin mothers care for their babies, and focused on breaking him of potentially bad behaviors. "I had to make sure that I was not rewarding behavior that people might find amusing but that other monkeys might find aggressive," she said.
And she also needed to teach him how to. . . well, essentially, how to be a monkey. Like how to use his tail: "I would help him wind it round a branch and then hold his weight so he would feel safe but realize what his tail could do. And then I would hold him progressively less so he could learn how to use it." At first Mally would not walk on grass -- he had apparently never seen it before. "It's not as tragic as one might think," Niewöhner says. "Every small monkey has to encounter it for the first time. I had to show him everything -- had to teach him not to eat bees or wasps for example, but that beetles and worms were good. I would give him the beetles that I found there between my lips so he would take them."
After his second quarantine period was over, he was moved into the little house on the island where he would be gradually integrated with the small troop of Capuchins at the park. Mally was allowed into the new space first, so that he would be part of the new surroundings when the family moved in -- and not an intruder into their established territory.
The other monkeys were introduced to the house after about five weeks -- initially separated from Mally by a chain-link barrier, so they could see and hear each other. Then they brought in the females first, including Molly, the baby just a few weeks younger than Mally. Niewöhner helped ease the transition, taking him close to the fence to encourage him to interact the monkeys. "Soon enough one of the adult females started to act aggressively towards me -- it was a very good sign as it meant she was trying to protect him," she says. "She knew that he was a monkey, even if it wasn't yet clear to him."
Eventually, when they let Mally interact directly with the other monkeys, he was tentative, and while "they didn't do anything aggressive to him, he would hold his teddy bear in front of him to protect himself when they approached him."