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Tamarin Triplets!

May 23, 2023

Cotton-headed tamarins infant cling to their mother at Marwell Zoo

We’ve welcomed incredibly rare cotton-headed tamarin triplets!

The Critically Endangered infants were born to first time parents, Gurt and Mico on 7 May and keepers say they are doing well. Both mother, Gurt, and father, Mico, can be seen taking turns carrying the youngsters, who cling to the fur on their parent’s back and stomach areas.

The arrivals are incredibly rare because there are three of them as well as their conservation status. It is normal for cotton-headed tamarins to give birth to twins every year in the wild but triplets are incredibly uncommon. It is thought there are currently fewer than 2,000 cotton-headed tamarins left in the wild and numbers continue to decrease.

Watch the babies on YouTube

Amy Denny, Primates and Small Mammals Team Leader, said: “The primate and small mammals team at Marwell are absolutely thrilled with the birth of our cotton-headed tamarin triplets who were born overnight.

“Their arrival has been long anticipated by the team who moved the breeding pair into their brand new habitat just before the Easter holidays. Cotton-headed tamarins are one of the world’s most endangered primates, suffering from the effects of habitat loss and illegal capture for the pet trade in their native tropical forests of Colombia.

“In European collections, cotton-headed tamarins are cooperatively managed by the EAZA EEP, ensuring genetic diversity is maintained to build healthy populations for the future. Females typically give birth to twins so after keepers counted two on mum at first check Sunday morning we were ecstatic to spot a third baby clinging onto dad.

“We have closely monitored them to ensure all is well and all three babies are being cared for wonderfully by the first-time parents. Cotton-headed tamarins will cooperatively care for their offspring with all group members helping out and taking turns to carry the infants. With only two adults in this troop, the parents certainly have their work cut out for them but are doing a brilliant job.”

Named because of the distinctive tufts of cotton-like white hair on their heads, these animals have traditionally been threatened by loss of habitat, pet trade and capture for medical testing. Because they are so small, cotton-headed tamarin are also prey for snakes, cats and a variety of birds of prey.

Found only in north-western Columbia, cotton-headed tamarins live in forests where they are able to leap from tree trunk to tree trunk using their claw like nails to grip onto bark. When resting or sleeping they coil their tails over one shoulder and along their back.  They communicate with each other through contact calls and eat fruit, flowers, nectar and small prey such as frogs, snails and insects.

During the next few months, the babies will gradually gain independence and will be cared for and carried by both parents. They are likely to become fully independent when they are about five months old and can expect to live to around 25 years of age.

Trade of cotton-headed tamarins and their body parts is illegal under The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES Appendix I).