Behavior of Marmosets (Callithricidae) in Non-Traditional Exhibits

Jacob Krauss, SIT Graduate Institute - Study Abroad

Australia: Rainforest, Reef, and Cultural Ecology


Marmosets and other members of the family Callitrichidae are very popular exhibits in zoos, mainly due to their attractive coats and entertaining social displays. Since they are highly social creatures, it is essential that they are kept in conditions that promote social stability. In many zoos, exhibits are designed in arrangements such as solitary or mixed-species enclosures that vary from traditional family groups. These alternative arrangements are solutions to financial constraints and a lack of spatial resources. This study sought to understand the effect of these arrangements on the behavior of callitrichids.

At the Perth Zoo, a mixed-species exhibit composed of a Common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) and several Pygmy marmosets (Callithrix pygmaea), in addition to a solitary Emperor tamarin (Saguinas imperator), was compared to a breeding group of Pygmy marmosets using a behavioral ethogram. Furthermore, any attempts by zoo visitors to feed the monkeys were observed as this has become a problem at the zoo. Results show that the mixed-species exhibit is as stable as the breeding Pygmy marmoset group, and there were many displays of affiliative behavior between the two marmoset species. Some signs of stress were exhibited by the Emperor tamarin, which may necessitate his placement in a more preferable social arrangement at another zoo, if possible. Any feeding of the primates was minimal, but having more visible signs to educate visitors may discourage further feeding attempts.