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Golden Lion Tamarins at the National Zoo, July 23, 2011.

For Father's Day 2011, Heidi and Piper arranged so that we could have breakfast at the National Zoo. Special guests would be... the golden lion tamarins! Also attending would be a pair of naked mole rats, and a hedgehog. Plus all of us, and Max, Jennifer (#1), and Clara. Showing us around are Jennifer (#2) and Kenton.

Here's the deal with golden lion tamarins, by the way. There are something like 1600 in the wild, and 500 more in zoos. Jennifer at the National Zoo is in charge of the worldwide breeding program for them. The breeding program seems to be going really well -- Wikipedia says there's just 1000 left in the wild, but that's apparently grown a lot in the past few years.

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Happy Father's Day!
Piper waits outside the Small Mammal House.
Jennifer lets us in, and the howler monkeys immediately start defending their tree. First visitors of the day and all, so it's understandable. This is a new couple, too.
Washing cages!
We have a tasty breakfast set up for us! Looks like fruit, protein bars, and wiggly worms!
Max can't resist a good fruit-kebab.
Kenton is a zoo-keeper and gets to feed the animals this morning. This is in the golden lion tamarin zone, but these are sakis, which are a similar monkey-like animal.
Where did the golden lion tamarins go?
Golden Lion Tamarin!
The sakis are monkey-like creatures who live with the tamarins.
Golden Lion Tamarin! You can see them any time you want, at the zoo's GLT cam.
Having breakfast in front of the animals, in the small mammal house.
Here is a small mammal!
Sloth in a box!! That is how it lives.
Clara and Jennifer.
Piper prepares for breakfast.
After feeding me a few worms (tasty!), she starts stuffing them into a bromeliad, which Kenton will put in with the GLTs so they can hunt the worms.
Now: the naked mole rat! These are the animals made famous (to me) by Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control, the 1997 documentary by Errol Morris which discusses insect-like behavior in robots and mammals.

Oh, and these rats here are mostly 20-30 years old! So wrinkly, too.

Max also mentioned to me a story about a biologist who predicted the existence of the naked mole rat. "Well, if any mammal were to exhibit eusocial behavior, it would probably live underground, and be small and hairless." And then, some decades later, someone discovered the naked mole rat!
If you haven't read about naked mole rats, you should probably do that right now. They are from Somalia.
They are also sold in pet stores in Mexico City (e.g., just down the street from our old place, at Toka Mas+Kota).
By eusocial, that means they live like insects. They actually have a queen rat amongst them, who is the only one who has kids. Most of the rest are worker rats. The queen rat is a little bit bigger than the rest -- apparently she grows some extra vertebrae -- but not as much as a queen bee or queen ant.
For his next trick, Kenton produces a hedgehog!
Meanwhile, Jennifer (who wrote her dissertation about GLT's in Brazil, and is currently in charge of the entire worldwide breeding program for GLT's), has set Piper up with a golden lion tamarin tracker! She's honing in on radio chirps.

One time, while tracking a GLT, Jennifer's couldn't find their tamarin, but kept stumbing across a big snake (python?) instead, which was giving off radio chirps. Guess who had a tasty tamarin snack?

Sloth!!! OK, 'Vlad' woke up. He actually sleeps in a slothbox, with the GLTs. They keep each other warm.
A little distraction here as the sakis start fighting (??) with each other. Kenton was filming it -- none of them had seen this behavior before.
My favorite saki pic.
The boys have white faces (like this one); the dark-faced ones are girls.
Piper's setting up more fruit-kababs for the animals.
Meanwhile, the zoo has opened, and the giant elephant shrew has its first visitor. (NB: I understand that just a week later, the elephant shrew had to be euthanized, due to a nose infection and complications during childbirth. Very sad.)
Finn tries to escape.
Thank you to our awesome hosts, Jennifer and Kenton! And thank you Heidi and Piper!
Animals safely packed away, we then headed down the hill for a bit more zoo-cruising.

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Henry Throop

Last modified Thu Aug 4 16:20:47 2011