A pair of cotton-top tamarins at Newquay Zoo

Rare monkey pair on show at Newquay Zoo

Newquay Zoo in Cornwall has just become home to a pair of incredibly rare cotton-top tamarins.

The new pair – male, Santiago, and female, Febe – both have a distinctive crest of white hair that runs from their forehead to the back of their neck and flows across the shoulders. Cotton-top tamarins are social animals, known for their sophisticated communication and cooperation skills as well as their ability to care for each other.

Listed as critically endangered in the wild, there are thought to be only 2,000 of these tiny monkeys left in their native habitat of north-western Colombia. There are several reasons for the decline of this species, including the widespread use of cotton-top tamarins in biomedical research before 1976 and the current exploitation of cotton-tops in the pet trade. Their biggest threat comes from deforestation due to forest clearing for timber and charcoal, along with the creation of human settlements, agricultural land and industry.

Newquay Zoo, along with its sister zoo in Paignton and parent organisation Wild Planet Trust, is committed to helping halt the decline of species like cotton top tamarins. Santiago and Febe are part of the EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria) ex-situ breeding programme, and Newquay Zoo hopes that the pair will be able to reproduce and help increase the number of these rare monkeys.

Newquay Zoo Cotton top tamarins Image 2

Dave Rich, Newquay Zoo Animal Team Leader, is a specialist in Callitrichidae, the family of New World monkeys that includes marmosets, tamarins and lion tamarins. Alongside being the European coordinator for two other species of callitrichid, he works collaboratively as part of the Taxon Advisory Group – with European zoos and other experts – to facilitate global movements of these animals for breeding and conservation. The movement of such important animals helps to secure the genetic diversity of ex-situ populations (collections outside of natural habitats) and safeguard the species from extinction.

Dave said: “Cotton-top tamarins are not only fascinating looking animals, but they are one of the most endangered species of primate in the world.

“Newquay Zoo has been successfully contributing to the conservation of these animals for decades. The new pair join four other species of callitrichid here at Newquay Zoo: silvery marmosets, pygmy marmosets, golden lion tamarins and Goeldi’s monkeys. We hope that people will fall in love with the species, and help to support them wherever possible.”

To learn more about our cotton-top tamarins, go to:

For further details about Wild Planet Trust, and the work it does to help halt species decline in the UK and abroad, go to: