Golden lion tamarins born at National Zoo

WASHINGTON — It’s no monkey business. The National Zoo is celebrating the birth of two endangered animals.

Two golden lion tamarins were born at the zoo on Friday, June 29, to first-time parents Mo and Izzy.

The endangered monkeys have been clinging to their mother Izzy’s back since birth but will soon transfer to their father, Mo, who will carry them at all times except when they are nursing, according to the zoo.

When they area about 5 weeks old, they will begin to explore their habitat on their own and at 3 months old they will wean, the zoo said.

Golden lion tamarins are social animals, and the family will move around their exhibit as a group.

Zoo keepers are closing monitoring the family and allowing them to bond before veterinarians will perform exams and determine the sex of the two monkeys when they’re a little older, the zoo said.

There were once as few as 200 golden lion tamarins left in the wild, but through a number of conservation measures and breeding programs, like the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Golden Lion Tamarin Species Survival Plan, the wild population has now grown to 3,200, according to a zoo news release.

Izzy and Mo were recommended to breed by the survival plan, but currently no tamarins are being released to the wild, the zoo said.

Native to South America, golden lion tamarins are social primates that live in groups of two to eight family members in the canopies of Atlantic coastal forests of southeastern Brazil.

About one-third of golden lion tamarins living in the wild are descendants of tamarins raised in human care, including tamarins born at the National Zoo.

Golden lion tamarins continue to face threats including habitat loss and collection for the illegal pet trade, according to the zoo.

Golden lion tamarins have high infant mortality rates, with approximately half of infants dying before they reach 1 year old, according to the zoo.

The National Zoo said that visitors can view the entire golden lion tamarin family and the Zoo’s other pair of golden lion tamarins, Diogo and Julie, in the Small Mammal House every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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