under human care
under human care
nectar, plant gums, saps, latex
at altitudes of 400m
Our family of cotton-top tamarins at the entrance of Singapore Zoo comprises dad, mum and three youngsters. Dad is the ‘boss’. Tamarins usually have twins or triplets. Dad piggybacks the babies most of the time, passing them back to mum only when the babies need to nurse. Tamarins practise cooperative rearing, so older siblings also help carry the babies. Other free-roaming family groups are found at Fragile Forest and Elephants of Asia. To date, we’ve welcomed 37 baby cotton-tops!
The tamarins’ strong family bonds are why they’re chosen as one of our free-ranging species. To start a free-ranging exhibit, the keepers select a lushly-planted location and build a small ‘hut’ in its middle. Branches for climbing and other ‘furniture’ are added to the ‘hut’. A family group of tamarins is then housed in the ‘hut’, where they will remain for the first few days. During this time, they get used to the human traffic and noises in their new environment.
Next, keepers coax the female out of the hut to explore and scent mark her new surroundings. A few days later, the male is released while the female is confined. Guided by her scent marks, the male familiarises himself with the area. When he’s observed to be behaving calmly and staying close by, the keepers release the whole family. This is a make-or-break moment as the animals may get spooked and run off. Kudos to our keepers who’ve always managed this step smoothly.
After the release, especially for the first week, keepers continue to monitor the family closely to ensure they’re settled in. The ‘hut’ remains at the heart of their lives. It is a safe haven for them, a place where they can take refuge if something frightens them. It is also where they spend the night, a warm hearth to retire to. For their safety, the tamarins must return to their ‘hut’ by the end of day. Keepers condition them to do so by placing food there at 5pm.
Each year, hundreds of illegal pets come to us in such a manner, or as confiscations. Given our limited space and resources, it is a challenge for us to take in all of them. It’s illegal to keep exotic animals like cotton-top tamarins as pets. Thousands of wild animals are removed from the wild to meet the demand for illegal pets and most die while being smuggled across borders. Do not buy exotic pets.