Endangered — and tiny — primate born at Duluth zoo

A newly born baby Cotton-Top Tamarin
A newly born baby cotton-top tamarin peeks out from behind its father at the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth. A native of Colombia, this species of tamarin is considered critically endangered and one of the world's most endangered primates. The new arrival, which has not yet been named, is doing well and the zoo reports its mother and father Mira and Deno, are taking great care of their new offspring.
Courtesy Lake Superior Zoo

Updated: Aug. 24, 8:51 a.m. | Posted: Aug. 23, 3:01 p.m.

The Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth is home to a tiny new baby cotton-top tamarin — one of the world's smallest and most endangered primates.

The baby was born on Aug. 1 to parents Mira (mom) and Deno (dad). Zoo staff report that the baby — which does not have a name yet — can often be seen clinging to its father’s back. Zoo staff don’t know yet whether the baby is male or female.

An adult cotton top tamarin is about the size of a squirrel, nine inches tall with a ten-inch long tail. They weigh less than a pound. Zoo marketing coordinator Caroline Routley said the baby’s exact size and weight isn’t known yet, but that babies are only about four inches long from head to tail.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified the cotton-top tamarin as critically endangered. It's native only to a small region in northern Colombia. There are about 2,000 mature individuals remaining in the wild, with 35 breeding pairs at zoos, including in Duluth.

The biggest threat the small primate faces is deforestation. They live in trees and can be seen scurrying through the forest canopy.

But they're also victims of the pet trade. It's estimated that more than three-quarters of their population could be lost by 2036.

A newly born baby Cotton-Top Tamarin
Cotton-top family Mira (left) and Deno sit with their as-yet-unnamed baby, clasping to Deno's back. The species is described as one of the world's most endangered primates.
Courtesy Lake Superior Zoo

“A birth like this is quite an extraordinary event and definitely something to celebrate,” said Lake Superior Zoo Chief Executive Officer Haley Hedstrom.

“With cotton-top tamarins being critically endangered, we are proud to be a part of the efforts to hopefully someday be able to grow the population in the wild.”

Correction (Aug. 24, 2022): A previous version of this story misspelled the country of Colombia in the caption. The story has been updated.

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