Cotswold Wildlife Park is celebrating the birth of one of the world’s rarest primate species – Cotton-top Tamarins. The striking infants are the second set of twins that parents Johnny and Louise have successfully produced. Twins Lilley and Lana were born last year and the newborns share their enclosure with these older siblings. Visitors can now see the playful youngsters at the Park.
Cotton-top Tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) are considered to be one of the world’s 25 most endangered primates* and are classified as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), making them one of South America’s rarest Monkeys. Rampant deforestation and gold mining have destroyed an estimated 95 per cent of their natural habitat. In the wild, these rare creatures are restricted to a tiny corner of north-west Colombia. Approximately 6,000 individuals remain in the wild – a devastatingly low figure, considering their numbers once ranged between 20,000 and 30,000 in the 1960s and 1970s.
New father Johnny is an important individual for the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) as he has an impressively pure bloodline. These new births are considered significant additions to the EEP, helping to ensure the genetic diversity of the species.
Each member of the family plays a specific role when it comes to rearing the young. The dominant male spends the most time carrying his infants – the mother carries them for the first week of life then holds them only to suckle. Females are pregnant for six months and the babies weigh approximately 15 per cent of their mother’s body weight.
They are not the only Tamarin births being celebrated this year. Emperor Tamarin twins were born on 17th March (one pictured below) to parents Dolly and Dom. The sexes of the newborns are unknown at the moment, so they are yet to be named. Cotton-top and Emperor Tamarins (Saguinus imperator) are New World Monkeys and are members of the Callitrichidae family. Both are visually striking and easily identified. The Cotton-top Tamarins boast a fantastic crest of long white hair, like a mane of white cotton, whereas the Emperor Tamarins are famous for their elegant white moustaches.
Primate keeper, Natalie Horner, commented: “Male Tamarins take an active role in rearing their young by carrying and caring for the infants the majority of the time. The babies only return to their mother to feed. Both sets of new dads have proved to be wonderful fathers. They even teach the older youngsters how to care for their younger siblings, which is an important part of their development.”
Visitors can see all four newborns at the Park. Their enclosures are opposite the entrance to interactive Lemur exhibit Madagascar. The Emperor Tamarins share their exhibit with the smallest Monkey species on earth – the Pygmy Marmoset.