Paignton Zoo’s pied tamarins are marking Star Wars Day. Six of these tiny primates from the Brazilian rainforest have Star Wars inspired names. Jedi is the father of Chewie, Annie (short for Anakin), Han and Solo. And, in a plot twist as confusing as any space opera, Leia is Annie and Chewie’s mother (in the original galaxy far, far away, Anakin is Leia’s father…).
It all started when Leia arrived from Belfast Zoo. A male joined her from Apenheul Zoo in the Netherlands – he was re-named by Paignton Zoo mammal keeper Andrew Fry, who continued the theme with their offspring, Anakin and Chewie. The others were named by keepers in memory of Andrew; the popular and talented keeper sadly passed away in 2013.
The question is, do their names fit their personalities? Robert Rouse, Paignton Zoo’s Senior Head Keeper of Mammals: “Leia is a bit grumpy sometimes – I think she might have gone over to the dark side… Chewy is not the brightest of the bunch. Han and Solo are probably sweeter than the character after which they are named. As we’re not sure which one of these two siblings is the oldest, you could say we are not sure if Han shot first!”
These pied tamarins are part of a European Endangered species Programme (EEP) managed by Jersey Zoo. There is an international breeding programme; all captive pied tamarins belong to the Brazilian government. There are 150 pied tamarins in 18 collections around the world.
Among the most endangered primates in the Amazon, pied tamarins are found only in and around the growing city of Manaus, in the heart of the Brazilian rainforest. As the city grows, their natural habitat is disappearing and these little monkeys are being pushed to the brink of extinction. They are classed as Endangered.
This species requires specialist care from the Zoo’s dedicated keeper team as they are recognised as being a difficult species to breed. Paignton Zoo keepers have created the right conditions for breeding before and hope to be successful again in the future. Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk or ring 01803 697500.