One of the world’s smallest, rarest primates born at Taronga

By AG Staff 25 January 2017
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Taronga Zoo in Sydney is celebrating the birth of a cotton-top tamarin, a tiny critically endangered primate native to Colombia.

KEEPERS AT TARONGA ZOO have welcomed the birth of the first cotton-top tamarin born at the Sydney zoo in a decade.

Native to Colombia in South America, the species (Saguinus oedipus) is one of the world’s smallest primates, growing to less than 500g as an adult.

The tiny monkeys – often likened to punks for their distinctive crest of white hair – are sadly also one of the world’s rarest primates, with less than 6000 remaining in the wild. Cotton-top tamarins have lost more than 75 per cent of their original habitat to deforestation, and are also threatened by the illegal wildlife trade.

cotton top tamarin baby Taronga Zoo

Image credit: Renae Robinson/Taronga Zoo

The new arrival at Taronga Zoo was born on 10 December, and Keepers report it has just started to explore on its own and to sample solid foods.

“We’re beginning to see the baby climbing off mum or dad’s back to explore. It’s started to run along tree branches and it’s grabbing food out of mum’s hands. It really seems to enjoy eggs, along with little pieces of carrot and sweet potato,” said Primate Keeper, Alex Wright.

Keepers are yet to determine the sex of the baby, which is the first born to mum and dad Esmerelda and Diego.

“Diego is playing a very active role in caring for the baby. We usually see the baby on his back during the day, so mum must be doing the night shift,” said Alex.

cotton top tamarin baby Taronga Zoo

Image credit: Paul Fahy/Taronga Zoo

Taronga has partnered with an organsation called TRAFFIC to help protect cotton-top tamarins and other targets of the illegal wildlife trade through its Wildlife Witness app.

Available for free through the app store, Wildlife Witness allows tourists and locals to report wildlife trade using their smartphone by taking a photo and pinning the exact location of the incident.

“Illegal wildlife trade is one of the greatest threats facing cotton-top tamarins and many other species. We want visitors to Taronga to not only learn more about these endearing little primates, but also how they can help their wild counterparts by downloading the Wildlife Witness app,” said Alex.

VIDEO: Paul Fahy/Taronga Zoo