Tamarin family moves to HK

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 May, 2011, 12:00am


From their father's back, the newborn red-handed tamarin twins watch their siblings jump from branch to branch all over their rainforest enclosure. The twins' teeny golden hands are poised, ready to help them leap as if they cannot sit still for a second either.

In one more month animal lovers can meet this monkey family of seven at Ocean Park's new South American rainforest-themed area.

These energetic monkeys are native to the Amazonian canopies around northern Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname. Ocean Park's new members flew in from South Africa last December. They were a family of five before the mother gave birth to the twins about three months ago.

Tamarins belong to the larger family of New World monkeys. They are strikingly different from their relatives in Asia and Africa - the Old World - including the troops of macaques that colonised the Kowloon Hills.

'Tamarins are among the world's smallest primates. Squirrel-sized tamarins are dwarfed by baboons and macaques,' says Peter Tse Pei-tak, Ocean Park's operations manager for terrestrial life sciences.

Tamarins sleep in tree hollows at night. These superb climbers and jumpers forage by day, travelling from tree to tree. 'They are known to jump as far as 20 metres from a tree to the ground without twisting an arm,' Tse says.

Strong, long fingers also help them stay aloft and snare insects, worms, fruit, lizards and birds. Tamarins are intelligent, inquisitive animals and the new arrivals are busy exploring their new home. 'The window at the quarantine area has Hong Kong's most-sought-after sea view,' Tse says. 'The family often gathers around and watches ships passing by. They get quite excited at the sound of a horn.'

The tamarin family will not be living alone in Ocean Park's new rainforest. They will share it with other tropical animals, including toucans, capybara (a type of South American rodent) and beetles.