An endangered golden lion tamarin named Fabio has started sharing the parenting load for a tiny newborn he recently welcomed with partner Valentina at London Zoo – carrying the youngster around on his back to give the first-time mum a break.
Since the little one’s birth in May, Valentina has cared for the tiny baby herself, but this week Fabio began stepping in to help raise the new arrival – part of an important European Breeding Programme for the endangered species.
London Zoo zookeeper Jorge Antolin said: “We had suspected Valentina was pregnant as she had been gaining weight recently, so we were delighted to spot a tiny face nestled among mum’s golden fur a few weeks ago. Despite being new parents, Valentina and Fabio have taken to co-parenting with ease and the baby is developing really well, which is brilliant news for both the family and the endangered species.”
The tiny primate, nicknamed Kumquat by keepers, was born fully furred and wide-eyed on Saturday 13 May and has been growing at pace throughout its first month, with keepers estimating its weight to currently be 100g. The family of three live in London Zoo’s temperature-controlled Rainforest Life area, London’s only living rainforest, which they share with two-toed sloths, tamanduas, tortoises and other threatened species.
Golden lion tamarins (Leontopithecus rosalia), with their golden fur and flowing mains, are sociable primates who live in monogamous pairs and small family groups. Directly after birth, babies will cling to their mother's backs before other family members, primarily the fathers, will take over carrying duties.
“Fabio is a wonderful, attentive father - he will carry Kumquat on his back for most of the day, only returning it to mum for nursing,” Jorge explained. “We don’t know the sex of the baby yet, but once it has started venturing away from its parents in a few weeks’ time, our expert vets will be able to confirm if our new arrival is a male or a female.”
Golden lion tamarins face a variety of threats in the wild - from habitat loss due to urbanisation, to the illegal pet trade. Native to Brazil, the wild golden lion tamarin population fell to critical lows in the 1970s, when there were estimated to be as few as 200 left in their rainforest homes. Since then, conservation zoos and zoological institutes from across the world have worked collaboratively with the Brazilian government to protect and restore the species, and in 2003 the golden lion tamarin’s conservation status was officially 'uplisted’ from Critically Endangered to Endangered. Today, it is estimated about a third of the wild population originated from golden lion tamarins raised in conservation zoos.
“This Sunday will be Fabio’s first Father’s Day as a dad, but it remains to be seen whether Valentina will allow him a day off from parenting duties,” added Jorge.