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Rio wonder comes to town
- Tiniest-ever primates arrive from Calcutta

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 29: Agile and naughty, they first caught the imagination of moviegoers around the world in the 2011 animation flick Rio. Now, marmosets, the tiniest primate known to mankind, have found a home in this city.

This simian species from Brazil, which can be seen in only a couple of zoos in the country, are the latest addition to the exotic collection of reputed aviculturist and registered dealer in exotic pets Shyam Sundar Mishra. This is the first time that a member of the species has arrived in the state.

However, catching hold of these pocket-sized monkeys was not particularly easy for Mishra, 35.

He not only had to spend a few lakhs to procure two pairs of marmosets, but also had to run thorough background checks to ensure that they were not the “wild” variety.

“The ones captured from the wild are quite aggressive. If they get agitated, they urinate on you to ward you off. But, marmosets that are born in captivity don’t have such tendencies,” said Mishra, who procured the foursome from Calcutta earlier this month for breeding purposes.

The eight-inch long exotic animals have been housed in a spacious, imported cage that gives them ample scope to swing and twirl.

The mischievous glint in their eyes, their playful acrobatics and the high-pitched squealing are nothing but compelling.

Given their lightning fast movements and clawing and scratching at the drop of a hat, releasing them from the cage could well may spell havoc in the house.

And Mishra is quite aware of that. “Anything new excites them,” said Mishra, referring to how the sight of a camera immediately distracted them from the biscuits being fed to them.

Small towels strung inside the cage serve as their bed. When it’s time to call it a day, they slide into it and curl up like babies.

They eat little but several times a day. Their diet consists of fruits, vegetables, canned marmoset food and biscuits. Since they tend to get bored of the same food, Mishra feeds them boiled eggs and cooked non-vegetarian dishes too.

“They also relish insects,” he said, adding that each of the primates weighed only 500 to 700 grams.

Marmosets, considered to be one of the most eco-sensitive animals, are conspicuous by their absence in the city’s Nandankanan zoo, one of the biggest in the country.

These pocket-sized animals hit the headlines in 2009 when they were stolen from Alipore zoo in Calcutta.

A month later, a special crime branch team recovered seven of them while one died.

Animal lovers in the city find it ironical that the zoo is yet to procure these animals, though they have begun to feature in private collections.

One reason for the reluctance of the government-sponsored zoo to keep these animals could be the maintenance factor.

“Exotic animals are like fragile goods, which need to be handled with extreme care. In our zoo, we have had instances of animals not only dying inside their enclosures but even during transportation. That might be why the zoo authorities are so cagey,” said animal lover Mita Maitreiyi.