28/06/2018

Endangered tamarin triplets have first vet check

Young golden-headed lion tamarin triplets at Bristol Zoo Gardens have had their first check-up at the vets.

The tamarins, who turn one this weekend, had a routine health check as part of our standard practise of examining all animals around a year after birth.

As part of the examinations, Zoo vet Michelle Barrows checked their eyes, ears and teeth, listened to their heart and lungs, weighed them, took blood samples and x-rays and checked their limbs. They were also microchipped.

Michelle was also able to determine the tamarins’ gender for the first time, and confirmed that they are all female.

Michelle said: “It’s important that we keep a close eye on the health and wellbeing of all our animals and an important part of that is carrying out routine health checks. This allows us to spot any signs of potential issues before they become a problem as prevention is always better than cure. It also gives us an opportunity to build up a picture of an animal’s general health and obtain normal reference values for that individual.”

Golden-headed lion tamarins are classed as Endangered in the wild and so the birth of the triplets last year was a huge boost to the captive breeding programme for the species.

Curator of mammals, Lynsey Bugg, said: “The triplets have really thrived over the past year.  It’s not that unusual for tamarins to have triplets but it is quite an achievement that all three survived. Fortunately their parents, Bee and Blondie, are very experienced and share the parenting responsibilities. They have done a fantastic job of raising all three.”

Mum and dad have been a successful breeding pair here at the Zoo for five years. In fact, they have been so successful that the triplets have 11 other siblings which now live at other zoos across the world, including Montreal, Jerusalem, the Czech Republic and France.

Some of these individuals are now part of breeding pairs at other zoos to further the captive population of this species, which is under threat in the wild.

In their native Brazil it is estimated there are fewer than 14,000 golden-headed lion tamarins left in the wild. More than 90 per cent of the original Atlantic coastal forest in eastern Brazil where they live has been lost or fragmented through agriculture or urban and resort development. In addition, the capture of animals for laboratories and the exotic pet trade has contributed to their decline.

Zoos across the world, including Bristol Zoo, are working to try to save the golden-headed lion tamarins from extinction.

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