Zookeepers at Bristol Zoo Gardens were overjoyed to welcome two new arrivals over the weekend -- twin golden lion tamarins.
The tiny new arrivals are especially significant as they are part of a global breeding programme and international effort to safeguard the future of these charismatic monkeys.
The infants, which weigh about 60 grams each, live in the heart of the Zoo with their mum Missy, dad, Dourado as well as older siblings Manchego, Rae and Leicester. Both new additions are thriving and have been spotted being carried around by their Dad between feedings.
Lynsey Bugg, Curator of Mammals, said: “They are both looking strong and alert. Tamarin infants are carried around on the adult’s back for the first few months of their life and it is typical to see both parents sharing this care. Both Missy and Dourado have been supporting each other and as the twins get a little older, we’ll see the older siblings help out.
“Golden lion tamarins form tight social family groups, which help them with the amount of energy it takes to raise their infants. This has allowed the species to make having multiple births the norm, with over three-quarters of wildborn golden tamarins being twins. Also, by getting the older siblings involved, they have a chance to learn all the skills they will need once it is their turn to find a partner and start their own family group.”
It will be some time before keepers at the Zoo are able to identify the sex of the little golden lion tamarins. And it will be over a year before they are fully grown – at present including their tails they are just 10cms (four inches) long.
Golden lion tamarins are named after their miniature lion-like manes, and live in trees foraging on invertebrates and fruits. They also opportunistically eat tree sap.
The twins’ birth is important because they are part of a vital European breeding programme to help protect golden lion tamarins.
Brazil’s Atlantic coastal forests, where they are found, are disappearing due to logging, agriculture and industry which put their future at risk. Golden lion tamarins are only found in a relatively small patch of forest, about three times the size of Bristol. This forest is often fragmented by large roads, which makes it harder for animals to move around and find suitable partners for breeding.
However, thanks to zoos, golden lion tamarins have become one of the world’s major conservation success stories.
They were down-listed in 2003 from Critically Endangered to Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List as a result of 30 years of conservation efforts.
About a third of the current wild population of this species are descendants of zoo-born individuals that were reintroduced into their native habitat in the early 1990s.