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Tiny Orange Twins Born at Santa Barbara Zoo

SB Zoo Golden Lion Tamarins 1
A pair of tiny orange Golden Lion Tamarins was born at the Santa Barbara Zoo on July 20 to new mother Kimmer and her mate, Kovu.

SB Zoo Golden Lion Tamarin 2
SB Zoo Golden Lion Tamarins family
SB Zoo Golden Lion Tamarins family2Photo Credit:  Santa Barbara Zoo

This small Monkey species hails from the Brazilian rainforest, where they are highly endangered due to development, deforestation and agriculture.

For the first 10 days following birth, Kimmer cared for the twins herself, but recently passed one off to her mate Kovu, who has fathered several offspring at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Twins Karen and Frank, born from a different mother in 2012, remain in the exhibit to learn how to care for newborns.

“Kovu is an outstanding father,” says Sheri Horiszny, Director of Animal Care. “He raised Karen and Frank by himself after their mother, Bella, died from an infection when they were five weeks old. Now Karen and Frank can observe how he and Kimmer care for the new offspring, just as young Golden Lion Tamarins do in the wild, to prepare for their own future babies.

Frank and Karen will soon move to another zoo as part of a cooperative breeding program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), in which accredited member zoos and institutions collaborate to manage endangered species populations. The Zoo has exhibited Golden Lion Tamarins since 1983. 

Adult Golden Lion Tamarins weigh about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds and are roughly 10 inches tall, with tails up to 15 inches long. The infants are now about the size of a stick of butter and spend most of their time on their parents’ backs. The new twins appear to be in good health and will be examined by the Zoo veterinarian at 30 days old to determine their sexes and weights, and receive vaccinations.  

“The young are getting more alert and curious every day,” adds Horiszny, “and the adults are always very active.”

Golden Lion Tamarins have silky, golden coats and manes around a dark face, giving the lion-like impression.  They live in the forest canopy, above the forest floor, in the lowland forests of southeastern Brazil. They face huge challenges in the wild as more than 99 percent of their forest habitat has been cut down for lumber, agriculture and housing.

Adults are monogamous and share in the care of their young. Upon birth, the young climb atop their parents’ backs. An infant does not have to leave its mothers back to nurse – her teats are almost under her arm pit, so they just slide under her arm. Both parents are involved in raising the young, who are weaned at approximately 12 weeks.

Golden Lion Tamarins are among the most endangered mammals on earth. Deforestation and habitat loss have relegated the species to a small region in eastern Brazil. Almost all Golden Lion Tamarins found in U.S. zoos, including those at the Santa Barbara Zoo, are considered to be on loan from the Brazilian government for captive breeding. Golden Lion Tamarins born in U.S. zoos have been reintroduced into the wild, and now one-third of the wild population comes from captive stock.