Amongst the trees in Eastern Peru is the incredible Emperor Tamarin Monkey, known to scientists as saguinus imperator. This species inhabits mostly lowlands in eastern Peru, northern Bolivia, and in western Brazil. In Brazil and Peru, the Tamarin is considered endangered or threatened, but most other places consider them indeterminate. Emperor Tamarins are New World Monkies, belonging to the Callitrichidae family. The Emperor Tamarin is omnivorous with a diet consisting primarily of fruits, vegetation, insects, and small vertebrates. They consume a large variety of things daily; there is no one type of vegetation or fruit that they care for more than others.
The saguinus imperator is a unique looking creature with a distinct feature; its ‘moustache.’ They have a long, definitive white moustache and beard that can be recognized from a mile away. Their facial hair is dark brown, with the exception of their frosty white facial hair. The fur on their bodies varies. Typically, the Emperor Tamarin has a dark brown back, with reddish-orange fur on its chest and belly.
The inner-belly is more orange than red, however. They are a very small primate, being a pound or less on average. They are a mere ten inches, with a tail of approximately fifteen inches. One distinct primate feature that the Emperor Tamarin has is claws; every digit, with the exception of the great toe, has a claw. The Emperor Tamarin uses this feature to dig into trees, swinging from branch to branch, constantly remaining vertical, and rarely ever touching the forest floor.
The behavior of the Emperor Tamarin is a lot like any other primate. With them being so small, their main focus is survival and keeping an eye out for any on-coming predators. Unlike many primates, however, the Tamarin is particularly friendly. They adore social interaction and play time. The majority of the Emperor Tamarin’s time is spent foraging and playing amongst the trees. When it comes to searching for food, there are one or two group members that will take the lead while the others will wait for food to be brought to their attention. “Analyses of individual foraging behavior show that 1 or 2 individuals in each study group acted principally as finders and were responsible for the majority of food searches inspections, whereas > 2 individuals in each group invested limited effort in searching platforms for food and behaved principally as joiners.”? It seems as though the majority of Tamarins do not mind waiting a little time to be fed without much effort. On the contrary, however, the alpha males seem to take pride in caring for their group members.
When I arrived at their exhibit I was blown away at how adorable these little guys were. They looked and acted like the perfect stereotypical pet monkey. They were curious, graceful, and wanted to play with everyone. It took a few minutes for them to move from one branch to the next, but once one did, it seemed as if they all followed suit and there was no stopping them. Within minutes, there was a swirl of colors and moustaches as they leapt from branch to branch playfully chasing one another. It was amazing to see how their claws helped them grip each branch with such ease. They never looked as though they took a wrong step; always so confident in their leap. Honestly, I believe this was my favorite experience at the zoo. Although they are so small, therefore should be the most worried about predators, they were carefree. Sure, I saw one or two eat a leaf and perk up at someone talking a bit loud, but overall, they were playing and enjoying life, as every creature should.