09 09/09/2016

Two of world’s most endangered primates arrives at Chester Zoo

Two cotton-top tamarins – one of the world’s most endangered species of monkey – have arrived at Chester Zoo.

Cotton top tamarin - Chester Zoo
Fourteen-year-old Arthur and female Maria, also 14, have moved to Chester from zoos in Germany and Switzerland after the critically endangered primates were carefully matched up by conservationists working to safeguard the species.

The zoo hopes to successfully breed the pair as numbers in the wild hit an all-time low.

A severe reduction in their population has been caused mainly by the destruction of their native habitat in Colombia, the illegal pet trade and over-exploitation for biomedical research. More than 80% have been wiped out in under 20 years and it’s now estimated that only 2,000 breeding animals remain. 

Mike Jordan, collections director, said:

With wild cotton-top tamarin numbers declining at an alarming rate in recent years, it’s now at the point where zoos must play a vital role in creating a safety-net population as the species teeters on the brink. 

Once settled into their new home, these two little monkeys will join a very important breeding programme for the critically endangered species, which is working to maintain a sustainable population amongst zoos now that their wild numbers are declining catastrophically and heading towards extinction.

Cotton-top tamarins are characterised by their small size and white crest of hair, similar to a Mohican, that starts at their forehead and runs over their shoulders. The species is only found in the canopy of the tropical forests of Colombia. 

Arthur and Maria are the first cotton-top tamarins to live at Chester Zoo for over a decade.

Cotton-top tamarin facts

  • Scientific name: Saguinus oedipus
  • IUCN Red List status: Critically Endangered
  • Males and females appear the same (no sexual dimorphism)
  • One of South America's most endangered primates
  • Feed primarily on insects, fruit, plant exudates, and nectar, as well as reptiles and amphibians
  • Obtain water by licking dew off leaves
  • Live in groups of up to 13 individuals