Baby, now healthy and active, loves exploring his exhibit on his own though his watchful parents still stand close by. Photo credit: Ramlan Bin Saruan for Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Singapore, 15 June 2012 — Born to a father thought past his reproductive years, keepers were doubtful that this baby would survive, especially after his twin brother was found dead the next morning.

But survive he did, and our golden boy, born 23 March 2012, is now ready to meet visitors from his exhibit in Singapore Zoo.

The road to health was an arduous one. His father, Rainbow is now 14 years old and was thought unable to sire any children by keepers. Golden-headed lion tamarins usually have a lifespan of about 12 years. This is suspected to be the reason why the March twins were born extremely frail.

The following morning, one of the twins lost the fight to live. The remaining baby was also looking weak and thought unlikely to survive. Things were not looking good indeed.

Golden-headed lion tamarins usually live up to 12 years old, but feisty Rainbow is now a father at 14. Photo credit: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Thankfully, Rainbow rose to the occasion, carrying the youngster determinedly. Keepers noticed that the baby would ride low on Rainbow’s hip with a straight tail, unlike healthy babies who would curl theirs. Doting father Rainbow stubbornly refused to give up, and picked up the baby every time he fell off.

Animals sometimes abandon their young if they are weak or sickly – an evolutionary mechanism for survival in the wild. However, it is rare for the male to continue carrying the baby if it does not look like it has a good chance at survival, and such young often are left to die.

Rainbow’s patience eventually paid off; Baby’s mother also started nursing him with more confidence and started regularly assisting in baby-caring duties. In the wild though, fathers are the ones who shoulder the bulk of nurturing babies. Mothers would only suckle and occasionally carry their young.

Though Baby was born weak and sickly, Rainbow refused to give up on his son. Photo credit: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

“It is always heartwarming to welcome new births to our zoo family. This baby is even more special because of the extraordinary circumstances that he had to go through to survive. He is a true fighter,” said Mr Alagappasamy Chellaiyah, Assistant Director, Zoology, Singapore Zoo.

Baby is now healthier and more active than ever, and can be seen exploring his exhibit on his own. His protective parents continue to keep a close eye on him.

Rainbow is not the only veteran in our zoo to have children of his own. In February this year, our 20-year old West Indian manatee, Eva, gave birth to her seventh baby, Valentine despite already being a grandmother to two.

The golden-headed lion tamarin is a species endemic to Brazil and is found only in certain areas of the state of Bahia. This tamarin species is listed as endangered in the wild on the IUCN* Red List of Threatened Species, with its main threat to survival being the destruction of its forest home by human activities such as farming and mining. Currently, there are believed to be about 6,000 – 14,000 golden-headed lion tamarins in the wild.

Come visit Singapore Zoo’s newest golden boy and his doting family in their exhibit at Tram Stop 2 today, as we celebrate Father’s Day this June!

*International Union for Conservation of Nature