Click to read: Baby black lion tamarin doing well

Baby black lion tamarin doing well

A baby black lion tamarin which is being hand reared by staff at Jersey Zoo is doing well.

The male tamarin was one of triplets born three weeks ago to the free-ranging family of black lion tamarins which live in the woods at the Zoo.  

Sadly their mother appeared not to be producing enough milk, because the babies became very weak and lost their grip on her, falling to the ground.  Keepers rescued the tiny triplets, but the smallest of the three could not be saved.  Sad as this was, it is quite unusual for this species to produce triplets, and when they do there is always a much weaker sibling - a runt - who does not normally survive. 

The second baby was also extremely weak, and although she hung on for a few days sadly she did not make it.  The good news however is that the third triplet, although weak at first, responded well to the 24 hour intensive care and attention given by his keepers, and has come on in leaps and bounds - quite literally!  At three weeks of age, he is moving around quite freely, and is even attempting a few scampering leaps between the wads of soft cotton which fill his 'bedroom'!

For the first week, the little tamarin needed feeding every two hours, day and night, which meant a gruelling but rewarding routine for his keepers!   Initially just feeding on normal human infant formula, after a week his nightime feeds were cut to four-hourly, and two-hourly through the day.  Now, at three weeks old, he is feeding less frequently, and being gradually introduced to solid food such as pureed banana, which he has taken to with great enthusiasm!  

He is now beginning the process of being re-introduced to his family group.  So far, this has involved the box which he lives in being placed inside a small cage, and then placed inside the tamarin family's home hut.  This allows the other tamarins to get used to his scent and his calls, and for him to get accustomed to theirs, without the danger of him getting hurt by an over-enthusiastic relative excited by the family reunion!  He will continue to spend a few hours each day with them, and over the next fortnight the distance between them will be gradually reduced, whilst the time he spends there is increased, until he is fully integrated back into the group, and will be able to begin his life as a 'proper' tamarin!

Black lion tamarins are critically endangered in the wild.  They live only in the Atlantic forest of Brazil, and are facing extinction due to the rapid deforestation of their habitat.  Not only is their habitat dwindling, it has also become fragmented, meaning that there are now many small 'pockets' of forest which are surrounded by several kilometres of cleared land.  This means that the tamarins that have become stranded in these islands of forest are unable to leave them to mix with other tamarin groups, and are forced to breed with each other.  This inbreeding is speeding the tamarins towards extinction.

Durrell Wildlife is supporting a project in Brazil to plant 'tree corridors' to link up these forest fragments and allow the tamarins to travel from one fragment to another to breed,  hopefully saving them from extinction.  Jersey schoolchildren have been helping by recycling their aluminium cans, for which the Trust gets paid money from Hunt Brothers, the company which recycles the cans locally.  For each 50 cans recycled, the Trust can buy and plant one tree in Brazil.

Durrell Wildlife's Deputy Head of Mammals, Dominic Wormell, said " To hold this fragile tiny primate, weighing little more that 50 grams, in the palm of your hand is a very special feeling.  Knowing that it is totally dependant on you for its survival, and that it is one of the most endangered primates on earth just makes you realise how important caring for these wonderful animals is".

Posted 28 August 2003

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