Taronga Zoo in Sydney has welcomed four baby squirrel monkeys, bringing the total of their vibrant family group to 17 monkeys.
Just weeks old, the babies still spend a lot of time clinging like furry backpacks to their mums, but have started to venture off exploring.
“We are starting to see the older babies venturing off mum’s back and exploring the trees and ropes, and being very playful together,” says primate keeper Janet Lackey.
Squirrel monkeys are a genus of five species of tiny New World primates native to Central and South America.
Taronga is home to a boisterous group of Saimiri boliviensis, or Bolivian squirrel monkeys. They’re distinguished by the cute white faces, black noses and an arch pattern above the eyes.
Bolivian squirrel monkeys are common in their native areas, and are frequently seen living in large groups of more than 50 animals. As social creatures they take care of each other in a closely-knit communal group, even look after each other's’ offspring.
“We have noticed some of the aunties in the family group have started sharing the responsibility of looking after the babies,” says Lackey. “It’s also lovely to see some of the younger aunties practising their mothering skills and the whole community working together to bring up the babies.”
Bolivian squirrel monkeys are not a threatened species, but they do suffer from illegal pet trade. Even though they’re cute and tiny, the animals are not suited for keeping in the house because of their tendency to be destructive. Also, as social animals squirrel monkeys need the company of their kin, and people who keep just a single animal are causing them unnecessary suffering.
Visitors of Taronga Zoo in Sydney are able to see squirrel monkeys up close at the new Squirrel Monkey Jungle Walk. It’s a huge habitat with giant climbing towers, trees, swinging ropes and even flowing water. Guests can walk along a boardwalk right through the exhibit.
All images courtesy Paul Fahy/Taronga Zoo