The smallest New World primate, also the smallest monkey, weighs less than five ounces (the only smaller primates are several Madagascan lemurs). Pygmy marmosets occupy a rather large range in the forests of Western South America. Formerly rather rare in zoos, its captive population is now well managed with more than 700 world-wide, mostly captive-bred. It is usual for twins to be born. Despite their tiny size, they can live 20 years in captivity. In the wild, they specialize in eating gummy sap. In captivity, they do quite well on the same diets that larger marmosets and tamarins receive: a manufactured primate diet, fresh fruits and vegetables, and insects.
Before the 1970s, this Northern South American monkey was very rare in captivity, but an improved understanding of its diet and health have led to this species being bred frequently, so that it is now one of the most widely-kept New World primates in American zoos. This is one of a relatively small number of primates where the sexes are easily told by their color; males are black with white faces, while females are grayish with a whitish line on either side of the muzzle.
Of the many kinds of small South American monkeys known as tamarins, most exhibit highly contrasting colors. This species is no exception. Most of its fur is dark, but its feet are bright orange. Another common name is Golden-handed tamarin, reflecting its scientific name, which commemorates King Midas and his mythical golden touch. This monkey is abundant in its Northeastern South American Range.
Of the two subspecies of Emperor tamarins, this one, with a dark tail and no beard, is the less common in captivity. It is found in a small area of Brazil and Peru. Like other tamarins, the male takes care of the twins (the most common sort of birth), giving them to the female only to nurse. They usually stay with their family group (led by a dominant female) for around two years.
Forty years ago, this magnificent monkey appeared on its way to extinction, both in its native Atlantic Coastal Forest of Brazil and in zoos as well. The wild population fell to less than 600, and in zoos, the number of deaths exceeded births. Over the next decade, improvements were made in zoo management, so that from a low of around 75, a self-sustaining population, today numbering nearly 500 world-wide, has been established. Through the reintroduction of captive-bred animals and habitat preservation, there are more than 1,000 in the wild.
It might seem surprising that Vampire bats have the fewest number of teeth of any bat — only 20, most of them tiny. However the incisors and canines, that dominate their jaws, are superbly suited to slice through skin, giving their owner access to the blood that is its sole food. Found from Northern Mexico to Chile, they prey on a wide variety of sleeping mammals and birds, including occasional humans (who are often attacked through their toes). They do well in captivity, and most zoo specimens are captive-bred. Their DWA diet is cow’s blood.
Distant relatives of elephants and hyraxes, West Indian manatees occur in two subspecies. The Antillean manatee of Central and South America, and various Caribbean islands, is almost identical to the Florida manatee (T. manatus laterostris), being slightly smaller with a narrower skull.
While Sea otters can also weigh up to 100 pounds, Giant otters are definitely the longest members of the weasel family, reaching five-and-a-half feet in length. Found in noisy groups of up to eight, related animals along rivers in tropical South America, they are active only during the day time. Although they have the shortest fur of any otter, their hides have been traditionally valued, and the fur trade has led to their being listed as an endangered species. Until recently, it was a very rare animal in zoos, but increasing numbers are being bred in captivity.
This enormous relative of sloths and armadillos is found all the way from Honduras to Argentina, but has gone extinct in several parts of this range, and is considered vulnerable to extinction everywhere. More than 250 are maintained in more than 100 zoos around the world, where they breed frequently. True to its name, it rips apart the nests of ants and termites with its powerful claws, then gathers them into its toothless jaws with its long, muscular tongue. In zoos it is fed protein-rich diets prepared in blenders.