Rare lion tamarin monkey born at Durrell

Francisco, the baby black lion tamarin (video courtesy of Durrell)

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One of the world's most endangered primates has been born at the headquarters of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

The male baby black lion tamarin monkey is the first born outside of Brazil for eight years.

The species of monkey is critically endangered in the wild, with fewer than 1,000 black lion tamarins remaining.

Named Francisco, the baby's arrival will help efforts to reintroduce the species to its native habitat.

Black lion tamarins (Leontopithecus chrysopygus) are small agile monkeys, which have silky long black hair and a mane around their heads.

Adults are 25-33cm long with a slightly longer tail, and weigh 550-700g.

The species only survives in 11 localities in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

This rarity led the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, an international charity based in Jersey that works to save species from extinction, to begin a captive breeding programme of the species.

  • Just 3% of the black lion tamarin's original habitat remains
  • The black lion tamarin is also sometimes known as the golden-rumped lion tamarin because of an area of golden hair on its rear

Francisco was born on 22 March this year by Caesarean section. Durrell delayed announcing his birth until keepers were confident he had made it past his potentially risky early few weeks of life.

"This birth is great news; monitoring and successfully delivering the baby has been a very tricky event to manage," says Mark Brayshaw, head of Durrell's animal collection.

He is the first healthy baby born to his mother, named Roxanne, who has previously lost two babies and suffered several miscarriages.

Due to her previous problems the Durrell staff decided to monitor her four-and-a-half month pregnancy and deliver the baby by Caesarean at the appropriate time.

"Predicting when the infant would be sufficiently developed yet intervening prior to natural parturition has been key and has involved dedicated input from the mammal team with lots of early mornings and late nights to monitor progress."

According to Durrell staff, so far both mother and baby are doing well.

Francisco the baby black lion tamarin (Image: Durrell) Francisco is now almost two months old

The infant is being hand-reared and syringe-fed every two hours throughout the day and night and over the next few weeks they will slowly teach him to lap milk from a dish. When he is able to do this successfully he will be returned to his family.

"The importance of this is that it is the first live birth of a black lion tamarin in captivity outside of Brazil for eight years and thus incredibly important to the European Endangered Species Programme," added Mr Brayshaw.

"There is still a very long way to go to ensure that the captive population's viability is assured but this is most definitely a step in the right direction."

There are currently nine critically endangered black lion tamarins, including the new baby, at Durrell's headquarters in Jersey.

In 1999 the Durrell team returned a group of black lion tamarins to Brazil for reintroduction to the wild.

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