The Spy (-der Monkey) Who Loved Me


I learned first hand that primates are smarter than most of the people I know.

In 1987 while working as a staff photographer at the now defunct Tampa Tribune, I latched on to one of those long term projects that become a passion and change your life.

The Spider Monkey who loved me at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida

The Spider Monkey who loved me at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida

The old style Zoo for the City of Tampa had announced it was becoming the new style Lowry Park Zoo Association with state of the art natural habitats for all the animals. It was like a dream come true for a photographer. I immediately made contact with the management of the zoo and made my pitch to document every aspect of the conversion, from its building to its opening.

Over the next year, I spent every minute I could find at the zoo, getting to know the staff and the animals as my friends. It was a magical time. The more time you spent with the animals, the more you learned that they were just like us. They each had unique personalities. They definitely had their likes and dislikes. 

Lowry Park Zoo opened on March 5, 1988, with a Free-Flight Aviary, Asian Domain, Primate World and the Children’s Village/Petting Zoo.

That leads to the Spider Monkeys. Set on an island with a water moat around it, this one spider monkey would run along the shoreline shadowing me whenever I walked by. We really did have a love affair. I would stop, the monkey would stop, I’d make clicking noises, and the monkey would respond back. There wasn’t a single visit to the zoo that didn’t include saying hello to “my Spyder Monkey.”

I tried to explain this to my fiancé at the time (now my wife, Andrea Peyser) and she found it hard to believe. Soon after the opening, Andrea came to the zoo with me. As we approached the enclosure, the monkey spotted me and immediately began our flirtation across the water. Visitors to the zoo began taking notice. It was a true highlight of my time at Lowry Park Zoo.

When I moved away to New York City, I missed my primate friend. For years I kept this picture on my desk and often hope that my friend had a great life at Lowry Park Zoo.

Postscript: As I have digitized more and more of my images from my Lowry Park Zoo collection, I have realized how few were ever published in the Tampa Tribune, or seen by the people of Tampa. I hope you will take the time to visit my collection from Lowry Park Zoo on SBI.SMUGMUG.COM