The arrival of new baby Golden Lion Tamarins on February 14th has brought particular joy to Zoo Basel. Castor (17) and Lilian (5) have become an experienced breeding pair with their second delivery of twins. Last year, they made the headlines with Basel Zoo’s first golden lion tamarin birth in twenty years. This year’s two baby Monkeys are full of energy and doing very well.
The zoo has had to wait a long time for these happy events, as the last opportunity to marvel at young golden lion tamarins in Basel was twenty years ago. The first pairing between Castor, from Sweden, and Lilian, imported from Holland, took place following an approach phase of just under two years in exile whilst the monkey house was being renovated. Apparently they now feel equally at home in the re-opened monkey house, demonstrated by the arrival of their two offspring on 14th February this year. Twin births are common in Tamarin and Marmoset pairings, and are standard for Golden Lion Tamarins.
Golden Lion Tamarins live in family groups of up to ten. In Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest, their area of origin, a family will claim a territory covering an area at least four times the size of Basel Zoo. What is particularly fascinating about these monkeys is the way in which social frameworks vary greatly from family to family. The most common framework is a pairing for life (monogamy), followed by a female with multiple male mates (polyandry) and a male with multiple female mates (polygyny). All members of the group are needed to successfully rear young. For example, the father offers energetic help in carrying the young monkeys around on his back.
These healthy offspring represent further progress in Basel Zoo’s longstanding commitment to the endangered species. Twenty years ago, a group of lion tamarins was delivered to Brazil for resettlement. Now, 140 institutions worldwide with a total of around 500 animals are participating in an international endangered species breeding programme. The population living in the wild has fortunately recovered slightly, and currently numbers more than 1500 animals.
The successful resettlement of golden lion tamarins did more than save a fascinating species of small monkey from extinction. The reintroduction of these charming little animals with their bushy manes won the hearts of the general public, and made an essential contribution to ensuring that the last of the precious Brazilian coastal rainforest is now a conservation area. It is rather unlikely that Basel Zoo’s new offspring will ever journey to Brazil, but one thing is certain: they will be offering direct support to other members of their species in their role as ambassadors, as well as helping to raise public awareness of both nature and habitat conservation, thus promoting biodiversity. In addition, Basel Zoo also provides financial support to this exemplary nature conservation project.