A Bittersweet Birth At The Racine Zoo

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE RACINE ZOO

 

RACINE, WI, MARCH 11, 2019 – The Racine Zoo is pleased to announce the birth of another Emperor tamarin infant on January 23, 2019, affectionately named Bella after her birth mother. This announcement is bittersweet, however, because five days after giving birth, Bella’s mother Isabella passed away unexpectedly.

After a necropsy, another word for an animal autopsy, results revealed she passed away from a cardiac condition. The loss of Isabella was a major blow to Racine Zoo keepers who have cared for her through six successful pregnancies. Isabella was also the first emperor tamarin to work with her keepers for voluntary ultrasounds, teaching keepers and scientists valuable information about tamarin gestation.

Isabella was a cherished member of the Zoo family. After her loss, Bella’s condition was critical. Although tamarin families usually work together to take care of infants, in this case, the zookeepers intervened to ensure Bella’s survival. Keepers were determined to give her the best chance, immediately putting their lives on hold to work 24/7 to give her the best care possible.

This human-assisted rearing of Bella included close monitoring and tamarin formula feedings eight times per day during her first weeks of life. Infants cannot regulate their body temperatures on their own until they are about 23 days old, so Bella lived in a modified human infant incubator in close proximity to the tamarin exhibit to retain their familial bond. The family would watch the zookeepers closely while she was being fed and had opportunities to touch and smell Bella during this time, an important aspect of their relationship building. The keepers also incorporated exercise time for Bella to prepare her to safely maneuver around the exhibit.

Bella has been reintroduced back to her family and is now living with them 24 hours a day while still receiving regular feedings from the keepers including the tamarin formula mix, baby cereal and she has also begun eating solid foods with the rest of the family as well. She weighed about 57 grams at five days old, and now at 48 days old, she recently weighed in at 150 grams, a testament to the experience, hard work, and dedication of keeper staff who raised her. Zoo staff collaborated with other zoos that have been in similar situations, and have already been called on as a resource for others.

Endemic to the southwestern corner of the Amazon rainforest, wild emperor tamarins used to thrive largely untouched by human impacts. As their previously remote range becomes more accessible, emperor tamarin populations are decreasing in the wild due to deforestation and habitat fragmentation. Isabella and Marquis were paired in 2012 and were one of the only successful reproductive pairs in the country, producing eight offspring through six pregnancies, including two sets of twins, at the Racine Zoo. The pair greatly contributed to the success of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan Program and the conservation of the species.

 

About the Racine Zoo Nestled along the sandy shores of Lake Michigan, the Racine Zoo is open year round. Current hours are 9am to 4:30pm. Winter admission rates are: Members and children two and younger: FREE, children three years to 15 years: $3, seniors: $3.50, and adults: $4. For more information on the Racine Zoo, its programs and events, visit www.racinezoo.org, call 262.636.9189 and find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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