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Safeguarding a species under threat

The need to create a safeguard population for the Buffy Tufted-ear marmoset isn’t a new concept...

The origins go back to 1982 when the Rio de Janeiro Primatology Center (Centro de Primatologia do Rio de Janeiro – CPRJ) responded to concerns about its status in the wild. (Coimbra-Filho, 1971, 1986, 1990). While there was rapid growth of the captive C. aurita population at CPRJ, reaching 40 individuals, maintaining them proved challenging due to the occurrence of progressive wasting syndrome in the animals, as well as mortality due to apparent leukemia. In the 1997 red list assessment, the captive breeding efforts were recognised as having been unsuccessful.

In 2014 a group of concerned primatologists from Brazil and international organizations met with the government body that works with species conservation, ICMBio (Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade) to form a working group to address the issues facing the species’ conservation. It was recognized that the 3 institutions holding the species needed support in resolving problems that would undermine the progression of a healthy conservation breeding population in captivity.

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust based in Jersey started a series of international workshops in Brazil on the conservation and captive care of marmosets and tamarins, callitrichids. This series of workshop were designed to pull together all those working with the conservation callitrichid species in captivity and in the wild. Working together to establish a regional plan to target the most threatened species and then work out conservation strategies for each. The Buffy tufted-ear marmoset (Callithrix aurita) was discussed at these workshops and the urgent need to set up a conservation project to focus on the species was highlighted as a priority.

One of the first actions was to undertake some genetic and demographic work in establishing a studbook for the Buffy tufted-ear marmoset, the studbook is managed by Claudia Igayara, Guarulhos Zoo, Sao Paulo. MMCP would also like to acknowledge and thank Dr. Jennifer Mickelberg of Zoo Atlanta (the Golden Lion Tamarin International Studbook keeper) for her support and guidance with this task.

In 2018 the studbook of Buffy tufted-ear marmoset was officially recognized by ICMBio- Centre for Primate Conservation, through a partnership established with Association of Zoos and Aquariums of Brazil - AZAB, and the movements of animals in compliance with the studbook recommendations have started, including new holders.

Cláudia Igayara and team - Guarulhos City Zoo (2013)

IMAGE: Cláudia Igayara and team - Guarulhos City Zoo (2013)

Guarulhos Zoo has been holding the species since 2009. With the new emphasis and grave concern for the species Guarulhos Zoo committed to research and improvement of husbandry techniques leading to many problems observed in reproduction, such early miscarriage and distocya being resolved. It now keeps 3 reproductive pairs, and the larger group, with 8 animals, will be the source for new pairs to be established in other institutions. In 2019 we expect to have the birth of the second generation of captive bred animals. Guarulhos Zoo is seeking for funds to increase its capacity in order to keep 4 reproductive groups.

The Future

The conservation breeding initiative needs development and investment, in 2017 and 2018 we were heartened to have increased the number of successful births. However, there is a great deal of work to be done to reach our short term target of 12 reproductive pairs, we urgently need to fund additional facilities in-order to successful increase the population.

Our long-term goal is to have many institutions holding the species so that a population of 350-400 individuals could be reached, thus maintaining a genetically healthy conservation assurance population for at least 100 years. This would take several years and would probably have to include a international element.

Interested in funding opportunities to help save a species that is in dire trouble? There are some exciting opportunities to support the plans to expand the facilities for the Conservation Breeding Initiative, contributions both great and small would be warmly welcomed. Email us

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