Securing a shared future for wildlife and people

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Photo by Paul Fahy
The Cotton-top Tamarin baby rides on father Diego's back

Taronga Zoo is celebrating the birth of one of the world’s smallest and rarest primates – a tiny, boiled egg-loving Cotton-top Tamarin.

The baby was born on 10 December, but has just started to explore on its own and sample solid foods to the delight of keepers and keen-eyed visitors.

“We’re beginning to see the baby climbing off mum or dad’s back to explore. It’s started to run along tree branches and it’s grabbing food out of mum’s hands. It really seems to enjoy eggs, along with little pieces of carrot and sweet potato,” said Primate Keeper, Alex Wright.

Keepers are yet to name or determine the sex of the baby, which is the first Cotton-top Tamarin born at Taronga in 10 years. The baby is also the first for mum and dad, Esmeralda and Diego, who are proving to be particularly attentive parents.

“Diego is playing a very active role in caring for the baby. We usually see the baby on his back during the day, so mum must be doing the night shift,” said Alex.

Native to the forests of northwest Colombia, Cotton-top Tamarins usually weigh less than 500 grams as adults and are sometimes likened to tiny punks due to their distinctive crest of white hair.

“The baby does have an impressive Mohawk, but it’s quite flat at this early stage. Once it gets a bit older we’d expect that little mo to really grow,” said Alex.

Classed as critically endangered with less than 6,000 remaining in the wild, 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.

Taronga has partnered with TRAFFIC to help protect Cotton-top Tamarins and other targets of illegal wildlife trade through its Wildlife Witness app.

The world-first app allows tourists and locals to easily report wildlife trade using their smartphone by taking a photo, pinning the exact location of an incident and sending these important details to TRAFFIC.

“Illegal wildlife trade is one of the greatest threats facing Cotton-top Tamarins and many other species. We want visitors to Taronga to not only learn more about these endearing little primates, but also how they can help their wild counterparts by downloading the Wildlife Witness app,” said Alex.

Wildlife Witness is free to download from the app store.

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