Schönbrunn Zoo’s mustache collection increased by one this spring. A new Emperor Tamarin was born April 26, at the Vienna Zoo.
The infant is frequently seen, riding piggyback, on the father or older brother. “The male Emperor Tamarins take on the care and rearing of the young. If the baby gets hungry, however, it is returned quickly to mother,” said Zoo Director, Dagmar Schratter.
The Emperor Tamarin is a species allegedly named for its mustached resemblance to the German Emperor Wilhelm II. Both male and female Emperor Tamarins are known to sport the distinctive facial hair.
This species of tamarin is native to the southwest Amazon Basin, eastern Peru, northern Bolivia, and the western Brazilian states of Acre and Amazonas. They prefer Amazonian lowland and lower montane rain forests, as well as remnant, primary, and secondary forests.
They consume a wide range of specimens in their daily dietary routine, including: fruits, flowers, exude of plants (gums and saps), insects, frogs, and other animal prey.
The age of first reproduction in Emperor Tamarins is around 16 to 20 months old, with a gestation period of up to 6 months. Tamarins are seasonal breeders, and breeding is based around food availability, with most births occurring during the wet season when food resources are in abundance.
Tamarin species were once thought to be monogamous, but observations of Emperor Tamarins in the wild shot they often have a polyandrous mating system, with one dominant female mating with multiple males.
Due to the high rate of twins or multiples at birth, Emperor Tamarins rely on parental and paternal care to ensure infant survival. Helpers are either older female offspring of the dominant female that have remained a part of the group, or they are males that have frequent interaction with the dominant female. Infant carrying has a high energetic cost due to the relatively large fetal weight of infants to the weight of adults. Helpers provide the extra support needed for caring of multiple infants. Male Emperor Tamarins have been observed to spend the most time with infants, often carrying several while the mother forages for food. The males have also been observed to be more protective of the young and are known to react faster to distress calls.
Emperor Tamarins are currently listed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. There are currently no conservation efforts aimed directly toward this species of primates. However, their populations have been in decline due to threats of deforestation and human encroachment.