Taronga Zoo in Sydney is celebrating the birth of a cotton-top tamarin for the first time in a decade. Yet to be named or sexed, the baby is seven weeks old, and has just started climbing off the parents’ backs to explore on its own.
“It’s started to run along tree branches and it’s grabbing food out of mum’s hands,” says Taronga’s primate keeper Alex Wright.
“It really seems to enjoy eggs, along with little pieces of carrot and sweet potato.”
Cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) are amongst the world’s smallest primates—adults typically weigh less than 500 grams. They are easily distinguished by the striking white crests which the zoo staff liken to punk hairstyles.
“The baby does have an impressive mohawk, but it’s quite flat at this early stage. Once it gets a bit older we’d expect that little mo to really grow,” says Wright.
These New World monkeys are critically endangered, with fewer than 6000 remaining in the wild. They are only found in in a small region of northwestern Colombia which is subject to extensive deforestation and human colonisation.
In the 1960s and 70s cotton-top tamarins were exported by the thousands to the U.S. for biomedical research. Export has been banned since 1974, but the tiny monkeys are still vulnerable to illegal pet trade.
“Illegal wildlife trade is one of the greatest threats facing cotton-top tamarins and many other species,” explains Wright.
Taronga Zoo has partnered with the wildlife monitoring network TRAFFIC to create a community action smartphone app Wildlife Witness that people can use in the fight against illegal wildlife trade.
All photos courtesy Paul Fahy/Taronga Zoo.