Cotswold Wildlife Park recently celebrated the birth of twin Cotton-top Tamarins. The striking infants are the second set of twins for parents Johnny and Louise. Twins Lilley and Lana were born last year, and the newborns share their enclosure with these older siblings.
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, and then holds them only to suckle.
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…[The dads] even teach the older youngsters how to care for their younger siblings, which is an important part of their development.”
The Cotton-top Tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) is a species native to the tropical forest edges and secondary forests in northwestern Colombia, where it is arboreal and diurnal. Its diet includes insects and plant exudates, and it is an important seed disperser in the tropical ecosystem.
Gestation lasts for six months, and the babies weigh approximately 15 per cent of their mother’s body weight. The Cotton-top Tamarin is one of the most diminutive monkeys. An adult weighs 432 g (15.2 oz) on average.
They 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 most rare 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 northwest 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.