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One of Taronga's new flower-loving Cotton-top Tamarins
One of Taronga's new flower-loving Cotton-top Tamarins

Taronga Zoo has welcomed a new family of flower-loving, bug-munching Cotton-top Tamarins, which are helping to educate tour groups about illegal wildlife trade and the plight of their critically endangered species.

The group of four brothers, ‘Wan’, ‘Trichidae’ and twins, ‘JD’ and ‘Petey’, recently arrived at Taronga from Mogo Zoo.

The quartet has been busy exploring their new home at Taronga’s Learning Centre, enjoying a tasty diet of maggots, mealworms, locusts and fruit and vegetables, along with an occasional flower as a special treat.

Sometimes likened to tiny punks due to their distinctive crest of long white hair, Cotton-top Tamarins are highly social primates found in the forests of northwest Colombia.

Keeper, Kristal Thomson said: “Our four brothers all have very different personalities and there’s a clear social hierarchy, with one always acting like the boss. They can also be very cheeky, particularly when it comes to meal time.”

While they are fascinating to observe, the Cotton-top Tamarins also have a serious education role to play at Taronga.

“Visiting school and tour groups have an opportunity to not only get up close to these endearing creatures, but also learn about the threats facing their wild cousins, including habitat destruction and illegal wildlife trafficking,” said Kristal.

Classed as ‘critically endangered’ with less than 6,000 remaining, Cotton-top Tamarins have lost more than 75% of their original habitat to deforestation. They are also threatened by capture for the illegal pet trade.

In their talks to tour groups, keepers explain how visitors can help Cotton-top Tamarins and other popular targets of the illegal wildlife trade, using Taronga’s new Wildlife Witness app.

Developed in partnership with TRAFFIC, the world-first app enables smartphone users to directly report illegal wildlife trade by taking a photo, pinning the exact location of an incident and sending these important details to TRAFFIC.

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