The Racine Zoo is celebrating a birthday, as well as the introduction of a new member to its animal population this month. Pitino, an emperor tamarin, came to Racine via the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He celebrates his second birthday on Aug. 8.
The Species Survival Plan, a program developed by the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums to help ensure the survival of selected species in zoos and aquariums, recommended Pitino to the Racine Zoo as a potential breeding partner. Racine Zoo staff say Pitino has been paired up with females Amelie and her younger sister Bella, with the expectation that he will breed with Amelie and share infant-rearing duties with Bella.
The Racine Zoo separated the male and female tamarins in advance of Pitino’s arrival. The Zoo’s resident male tamarins – Marquis and offspring Pierre and Jacques – would not accept a new breeding male into the group. Therefore, the resident males have formed a bachelor group, while the females have started a new family group with Pitino.
As standard procedure, Pitino underwent a 30-day quarantine before being introduced to the Zoo’s female Tamarin population. After he cleared his quarantine, staff began the introduction process.
Introducing Pitino to new individuals was a careful process: Zoo staff began by exchanging items that smelled like one another before introducing Pitino to the others in a special meet-and-greet where a mesh barrier separates the animals but allows them to interact and get to know one another. Pitino was then introduced to his new exhibit area, and later to the two female tamarins. Zoo staff says the speed of this process was determined by the animals, but went quickly and took just a few days before all three were living together.
Pitino can be viewed on-exhibit in the Vanishing Kingdom daily. Marquis, Pierre, and Jacques will remain off-exhibit at the Racine Zoo at least temporarily and will likely be placed at another zoo this fall.