Tamarins explore their new home

Emperor tamarin at Flamingo Land.
Emperor tamarin at Flamingo Land.

Last year, we received a new female bearded emperor tamarin, Lenny, from Dudley Zoo to partner with our current male. She has now settled in at Flamingo Land and is getting along really well with the male. They have recently moved to the monkey island, which is viewable from the treetop walkway. This island is shared with our saki monkeys, so at the moment they are having alternate access to the outdoor space. They have spent plenty of time exploring and investigating their island and finding their way around.

Emperor tamarins are small primates with very distinctive white fur in the form of a ‘moustache’. Male, female and infant tamarins all have the moustache and they retain all of their fur all year round, with the rest of their body being a grey-brown colour. There are two sub-species of emperor tamarins, the bearded and the black-chinned, due to the visible difference of the bearded sub-species possessing white fur in a similar style to the ‘moustache’.

Most primates are social animals, therefore in the wild the bearded emperor tamarin would be found in groups of around 3-8 individuals within the Amazon rainforest. They are extremely agile and rarely spend time on the ground. They use their claws for climbing in the trees and are excellent at leaping from branch to branch. Their diet consists of fruit, flowers, tree sap and insects, and they would forage together as a group.

In terms of breeding, there would only be one dominant breeding female who would mate with multiple males. She would also release pheromones and exhibit dominant behaviour over the other females within the group to prevent them from being able to breed. After mating, the female would be pregnant for 4-5 months and give birth to twins. The young would be carried around by all members of the group until they are about 2 months old and they would reach their fully grown size by the time they are 2 years old.

The emperor tamarins’ status is considered to be least concern, however habitat destruction and the construction of roads is having a negative effect on their population numbers. Emperor tamarins, along with many other primate species, are captured to support the exotic pet trade. This can be stressful for both the young and parent if they are separated, or they may not have high levels of welfare and the correct social interactions in their new captive environment.