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Caring for Marmosets & Tamarins

Hand Rearing

The need to hand rear may be necessary for a variety of reasons -rejection by the parents, ill health of the mother, weakness of the offspring or a triplet birth. Careful consideration must be given as hand rearing requires a great deal of time and commitment. Unless the individuals are of genetic importance subsequent problems in hand-reared adults may be undesirable. With careful re-introduction they can, and do, breed normally, but can develop behavioural abnormalities and may become extremely aggressive towards their keepers. Fostering may be considered as a possible alternative to hand-rearing if a suitable foster mother is available. If rejected, offspring may be found on the floor or the adults will be agitated, pulling them, trying to rub them off against perches and wire and in some cases biting them severely.Every effort should be made to keep the baby within the group. Sometimes it is possible to remove the infant and feed it and try returning it to the group later or the next day but it is important to monitor the situation closely. If the offspring are being cared for but receiving no milk they will be restless. climbing over the adults continuously. As they become weaker they will hang from around the legs or the base of the tail of the parent. The infant's tail normally held coiled, may be seen extended and limp. Contented babies, when very young, sleep most of the time. When not suckling they will cling tightly around the neck or shoulders of the parent, in triplet births one baby usually dies. In several species three young have been reared but this is rare. Sometimes one dies very quickly but they may all die after some days as all three may not have received enough nutrition. When removing a triplet the temptation is to take the smallest one, but this one has a better chance with its mother than if hand reared. The largest, strongest baby will respond better to hand rearing.You may consider hand rearing two of triplets as they will then grow with each other's company and may become less imprinted. Several institutions, particularly laboratories, have successfully used a system of alternating which of triplets receives food, taking a different infant each day. In zoos animals tend to be handled less than in laboratories and potential the benefit of alternating between the triplets need to be weighed carefully against the stress to the carriers of the extra handling involved.

Physical condition of infants
An incubator is the best source of warmth. Heat lamps are not suitable, the heat is too intense and will dehydrate the babies. If an incubator is not available hot water bottles are good, but use caution and wrap them in several layers of towelling. Small babies die very quickly if too hot. 26.5°C-29°C (80-85°F) is ideal. Heated plant propagators are useful for older youngsters but are not usually warm enough for newborns. In a real emergency a domestic iron on the lowest setting wrapped in towelling in a box can be used as a heat source. Should the baby be hypotheimic when you remove it, you can raise its body temperature gently by holding it against your own body or holding it in your hand in a bath of warm water. Hot water bottles do have one advantage in being easily transportable. They can be placed in a basket or carrier if you have to take the young ones with you anywhere. The baby will need something to cling to, a small toy or, if this is not available, a couple of thick socks rolled together will do.

Feeding Regime.
A syringe with a small teat on the end is the best thing for feeding. Dolls ' bottles are usually too large and glass ones are awkward to use. Syringes also have the advantage of being calibrated so the amount of each feed can be recorded. There are many accounts of milk formula and various additives but experience has shown that a good quality milk substitute for human babies is quite adequate without additional vitamins etc.Start by feeding the baby every 2 hours. The milk must be warmed to blood temperature, gauge this by holding the syringe against your cheek or wrist. Babies will not take milk that is too hot or too cold. It is best to wait a little while if they have been taken directly from the parents, as they may be distressed and will accept an artificial teat more readily if hungry. Hold the baby in an upright position to feed it,not lying on its back. This will help stop milk being inhaled and going into the lungs which can lead to pneumonia. If they sneeze it out of'the nose dab it with tissue to prevent it being inhaled. Introduce the teat to the mouth and, if the baby sucks the teat immediately, release the milk slowly the infant does not suck at the teat try putting a drop on the lips to see if the baby will lick it. The first feed can be of just glucose or honey and water to start the system gently, the second feed diluted milk and thereafter as per the mixing instructions. The baby may take very small amounts at first, O.5ml being average for the first few days. Feed only when the baby is hungry and sucking vigorously, encouraging it to keep taking more milk will be fatal. Babies will not die of being slightly underfed, but overfeeding will kill them. As the volume of the feeds increases the frequency can be reduced; 3 hourly 2nd week, 4 hourly 3rd week, etc. Babies will be very hungry at some feeds, less at others, but this is quite normal. After each feed stimulate the baby to urinate and defecate by gently rubbing the anus and genitals with some tissue or cotton wool which should be moistened with warm water. The first motion is normally very thick and dark after which they will be pale yellow. Should the baby become sore around the base of the tail use a little baby cream. After two weeks the baby will not need feeding at night- 6.00am -12.00pm being sufficient. After 4 weeks introduce very small amounts of cereal-based infant food to the milk, gradually increasing it during weeks 5 -6. By week 4 the baby will start taking soft banana or pear from your fingers. At this stage start leaving the baby with a small bowl of finely chopped food. By 12 weeks the baby will be fully weaned but may still appreciate some baby cereal in a bowl, particularly if this is not part of your normal adult feeding regime.

Monitoring Progress
Weighing the babies daily and keeping a record of their weight gain is important. The weight should increase steadily, though not necessarily daily (a little weight loss may occur in the first couple of days). If there is gradual weight loss while they are still being fed milk consult your vet or seek further guidance. When the babies begin to wean and you start withholding bottle feeds a slight weight loss is normal. Minor digestive problems can occur. Constipation if the babies have not defecated after a couple of feeds, might be remedied by replacing a milk feed with glucose and water. Using water that has had a handful of rice boiled in it to make up the milk feed may help diarrhoea. The starch in the rice has a binding effect. If diarrhoea is severe and persistent feed the baby an electrolyte solution to ensure it does not dehydrate. If this is done for a couple of feeds it may solve the problem otherwise consult your vet. Be very cautious when using kaolin based remedies as they can cause intestinal blockage.

Reintroduction should be started as soon as possible, contact with the rest of the natal group is very important. Ideally during the day the infants should be kept within sight, sound and smell of the group, preferably in their container within the enclosure. Once the infants are mobile they should be released for short periods, gradually increasing until they are fully integrated. All interactions should be observed initially. If it is not possible to reintroduce infants to their family, mixing them with a single animal of any callitrichid species can be successful and is preferable to isolation.

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