Cyrano and Roxanne

The name for the Zoo’s male proboscis monkey was a winner by a nose: Cyrano, and his lovely mate, Roxanne.
  • 1950s
  • 1960s

In an exchange of animals with the Surabaja Zoo in Indonesia, a pair of proboscis monkeys named Cyrano and Roxanne arrived at the Zoo in 1956. With a monkey so rare and unusual, keepers sprang into action upon their arrival. Intent on helping these animals thrive at the Zoo, a temperature-controlled exhibit room in the Reptile House was created to “simulate the tropical atmosphere of their native Borneo and provide them with a diet similar to that of their native food.” As deft climbers and swimmers, the enclosure had tree-like structures and a pool for them to exercise their talents should they desire.

The dynamic duo seemed to adapt well to life in San Diego, enjoying a broad range of plant products, potatoes, fruits, nuts, hibiscus flowers, and Eugenia berries, which were eaten with great relish. These hefty primates can reach 52 pounds, with a body length of 30 inches and a tail just as long. But what really set them apart was their striking looks, as a ZOONOOZ article described: “Their extremely long, flesh-tinted noses cause the proboscis monkeys to be most aptly named. Other startling features are the large, quizzical eyes, grim-set mouths, and heads topped by a shock of bright red hair.” At the time, they were the only proboscis monkeys in a zoo in the Western Hemisphere. They were joined by another pair, Pinocchio and Penelope, and in 1965, Penelope had the first successful birth of this species outside of Indonesia.

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