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The Amazing Spidey
Zoo celebrates monkey's 50th birthday
aa crowd shot
A crowd watches as Spidey celebrates his 50th birthday, Saturday at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo. - photo by photos by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

Most spider monkeys live to be about 25 years old, so the 50th birthday of Great Bend’s Spidey is amazing. In fact, the staff at Brit Spaugh Zoo believe he’s the second oldest spider monkey in the world.

Spidey came to Great Bend in 1965, when he was 6 months old, from a pet store in Hollywood, Florida. To celebrate his milestone birthday on Saturday, members of the Great Bend Zoological Society served cake to an estimated 400 people. At 3 p.m., a crowd gathered around the monkey exhibit to sing “Happy Birthday” and watch Spidey tear into a cake made just for him.
Zookeeper Stacie Hayes said the cake was made from fruit, sugar-free whipped topping, oatmeal, “and monkey biscuits, (which) he gets every day.”

Spidey’s favorite foods are bananas, strawberries, blueberries and watermelon. According to Pamela Wylot-Tucker, who used to work at the zoo, he’s especially fond of strawberries with peanut butter. Her observation was included in a slide show created for the occasion. Zoo staff asked people to share their memories of the monkey, who is one of the favorite animals at Brit Spaugh Zoo.
“We’ve got a great turnout; it’s so awesome,” Zoo Director Nicole Benz said.

The natural habitat of spider monkeys is the rain forests of South America. In the wild or in captivity, they communicate with screeches, barks and other sounds, as well as body language. Spidey reportedly uses all forms of communication around feeding time, or whenever he feels he’s not getting enough attention.

Zoo staff were prepared to lead tours to an indoor area where Spidey stays in cold weather, but it was sunny and the temperature was 55 degrees on Saturday, so the monkey was happy to move outdoors. His tire swings were decorated with streamers, and a large birthday card was posted outside the exhibit.

The slide show and refreshments were in the zoo’s main building, the Kansas Raptor Center. The zoo’s newest animal, a binturong, was on display there, and people were invited to make a donation to the zoo to “vote” on what her name will be. The choices are Flora, Poppy and Nadira.