‘A little bittersweet:’ Racine Zoo’s newborn tamarin Bella thrives after mother died

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Tiffany Pierce

RACINE -- The Racine Zoo announced the birth of another emperor tamarin infant on Jan. 23, however, as a newborn, the animal faced difficult times.

"She had a little bit of a different start," said Crystal Champeau, the Racine Zoo's primary primate care specialist.

Located in the Vanishing Kingdom building, she's not easy to spot within her exhibit. If you look hard enough between the greenery, though, you'll find the zoo's newest emperor tamarin.

Crystal Champeau

"I told them it would all be worth it at some point," said Tiffany Pierce, animal curator at the Racine Zoo. "We're always happy to have babies here at the Racine Zoo. This one was a little bit bittersweet."

Her birth was bittersweet because at five days old, Bella's mother -- and the family matriarch -- died unexpectedly.

"Results showed that she died of a cardiac issue," said Champeau.

Without a mom to feed her, zookeepers stepped into a new role.

"It's really a labor-intensive process. Quite like a human infant, she was getting fed every two to three hours," said Champeau.

"We actually had a cot here so we could take naps in between those really late and really early feedings," said Pierce.

On Thursday, March 14, zookeepers were still feeding her daily with a syringe, and using a surrogate monkey for comfort.

"When it's time for her to eat, we hold this up. She sees it. She'll come over to the surrogate, jump onto its back and then we're able to syringe feed her," said Champeau.

At 51 days old, Bella -- named after her mother Isabella -- was thriving.

"We're excited to see that she is starting to learn behaviors from her father and older siblings that we've seen all of our other tamarins learn too," said Champeau.

Emperor tamarin Bella

Emperor tamarin Bella

At 161 grams, Bella was two weeks ahead in weight compared to the average emperor tamarin at this age.

Bella is on exhibit in the Vanishing Kingdom building during regular zoo hours -- daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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