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Golden Lion Tamarins Born at Zoo
updated: Aug 04, 2014, 2:10 PM

By Santa Barbara Zoo

A pair of tiny orange golden lion tamarins were born at the Santa Barbara Zoo on Sunday, July 20 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," says 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 (AZA), 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 1 1/2 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," adds Horiszny, "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.

About Golden Lion Tamarins

GLTs have silky, golden coats and manes around a dark face, giving the lion-like impression. They live in the forest canopy, above the forest floor, in the lowland forests of southeastern Brazil. They face huge challenges in the wild as more than 99 percent of their forest habitat has been cut down for lumber, agriculture and housing. Adults are monogamous and share in the care of their young. Upon birth, the young climb atop their parents' backs. An infant does not have to leave its mothers back to nurse - her teats are almost under her arm pit, so they just slide under her arm. Both parents are involved in raising the young, who are weaned at approximately 12 weeks. GLTs are among the most endangered mammals on earth. Deforestation and habitat loss have relegated the species to a small region in eastern Brazil. Almost all GLTs found in U.S. zoos, including those at the Santa Barbara Zoo, are considered to be on loan from the Brazilian government for captive breeding. GLTs born in U.S. zoos have been reintroduced into the wild, and now one-third of the wild population comes from captive stock.

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Known as one of the world's most beautiful zoos, the Santa Barbara Zoo is located on 30 acres of botanic gardens and is home to nearly 500 individual animals in open, naturalistic habitats. It is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), representing the highest level of animal care, and participates in AZA endangered species programs for Asian elephant, California condor, Channel Island fox, and Western lowland gorilla, among others. A private nonprofit corporation, the Santa Barbara Zoo depends on community support, not tax dollars, for operations and improvements. The Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; general admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors aged 65+, $10 for children 2- 12, and children under 2 are free. Parking is $6. Visit www.sbzoo.org.


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