Two Critically Endangered Cotton-Top Tamarins Born at Potter Park Zoo  

Potter Park Zoo’s cotton-top tamarins Yuri and LG have given birth to two healthy babies – the pair’s fourth litter in four years. Their first litter was born October 2018, followed by another in June of 2019 and a third in November of 2020. With the new additions, the zoo’s cotton-top tamarin family group is now seven strong.

Cotton-top tamarin social groups abide by a strict hierarchy, with one monogamous pair sharing exclusive breeding rights. Older offspring and subordinate adults help raise newborns in a process known as alloparenting, which helps to shoulder mom’s burden and allows juveniles to build child-rearing experience of their own. The zoo’s animal care team reports that the two babies are actively nursing and observing their environment more and more each day. The older siblings have been seen regularly carrying the babies, who will become independent at around five months of age.

Potter Park Zoo was recommended to breed the pair of cotton-top tamarins by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which works to ensure healthy and genetically diverse zoo populations. Currently, there are about 200 cotton-top tamarins in 60 AZA-accredited zoos across the United States.

LG (left), Yuri (middle), and a younger sibling carrying one of the pair.

Cotton-top tamarins are among the world’s rarest primates, with an estimated 6,000 individuals remaining in the wild. Due to deforestation for farming, logging, and oil palm plantations, the cotton-top tamarin’s lowland forest home has been reduced to a mere five percent of its former range. For the Potter Park Zoo team, each cotton-top tamarin birth is a small victory in the species’ fight for survival, and provides a unique opportunity to educate and connect the public with this rare and fascinating species.

Guests can pay the tamarin family a visit in the Reptile and Small Mammal House, and follow the zoo’s social media pages for updates.