A pair of tiny orange golden lion tamarins were born at the Santa Barbara Zoo on Sunday and can now be spotted clinging to their parents’ backs in their exhibit near the Zoo Train Station.
This small species of monkey, called “GLTs” by keepers, hail from the Brazilian rainforests, where they are highly endangered due to development, deforestation and agriculture.
This is the first successful birth for Kimmer, a female GLT who arrived in December 2012 from the Baton Rouge Zoo. For the first 10 days following birth, Kimmer cared for the twins herself, but recently passed one off to her mate, Kovu, who has fathered several offspring at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Twins Karen and Frank, born from a different mother in 2012, remain in the exhibit to learn how to care for newborns.
“Kovu is an outstanding father,” said Sheri Horiszny, director of animal care. “He raised Karen and Frank by himself after their mother, Bella, died from an infection when they were five weeks old. Now Karen and Frank can observe how he and Kimmer care for the new offspring, just as young GLTs do in the wild, to prepare for their own future babies.”
Frank and Karen will soon move to another zoo as part of a cooperative breeding program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, in which accredited member zoos and institutions collaborate to manage endangered species populations. The zoo has exhibited GLTs since 1983.
Adult GLTs weigh about 1 to 1½ pounds and are roughly 10 inches tall with tails up to 15 inches long. The infants are now about the size of a stick of butter and spend most of their time on their parents’ backs. The new twins appear to be in good health and will be examined by the zoo veterinarian at 30 days old to determine their sexes and weights, and receive vaccinations.
“The young are getting more alert and curious every day,” Horiszny said, “and the adults are always very active.”
The golden lion tamarin family is on view in their two-story exhibit, which features glass at eye-level to improve viewing by zoo guests. However, the tamarins have free access to their off-exhibit area and may not be visible at all times.
— Lauren Daniels is a marketing coordinator for the Santa Barbara Zoo.