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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 January 2008, 13:02 GMT
Keepers save abandoned primates
The pied tamarin babies are fed every two to four hours.

Keepers at a Devon zoo are hand-rearing two critically endangered monkeys after their mother abandoned them.

The pied tamarin babies born on New Year's Eve at Paignton Zoo were rescued when their mother started to show signs of neglecting the pair.

Padme and Chewie are being kept in an incubator near their parents during the day. They will have 24-hour care for about more six weeks.

Pied tamarins are the most endangered of all the Amazon primates.

Primate keeper Andrew Fry rescued the babies after the mother, Leia, started to show signs of neglect and hurried the newborns to the zoo's veterinary centre, where they were placed in the incubator.

The species is critically endangered - every youngster is vital to the future of the species
Julian Chapman, Paignton Zoo

They are being fed every two to four hours - primarily by Andrew - while colleagues are sharing the task of taking the babies home at night.

In proportion to their body size, the tiny monkeys have larger brains than humans.

They are classified as critically endangered and face an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the very near future.

The baby's mother, Leia, came to Paignton Zoo from Belfast Zoo.

Their father, Jedi, came from Apenheul Primate Park in the Netherlands.

Pied tamarins. Pic: Herald Express
The pair have been called Chewie and Padme. Pic: Herald Express
Both are owned, as are all members of their species in collections outside Brazil, by the Brazilian government.

Senior head mammal keeper Julian Chapman said: "Genetically it is important that we get youngsters from this pair and continue their bloodline.

"The species is critically endangered - every youngster is vital to the future of the species."

At birth, the male, Chewie, weighed 53g and the female, Padme, 41g.

They were fed initially on glucose solution, then moved on to diluted baby formula, building up to near normal strength after five days.

They are currently spending all day in sight, smell and hearing of the adults, clinging to a small piece of carpet inside the incubator.

It is hoped that they will be reintroduced to an enclosure after six weeks.

Night feeds would then stop, but they would still need milk feeds from the keepers for another few months, the zoo said.

SEE ALSO
Rare monkeys put down over fights
29 Nov 07 |  Cornwall

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