An employee's negligence on the coldest night of the year in a Louisiana city killed two tiny endangered tropical monkeys last month, a city spokeswoman said.
The employee had worked at the Alexandria Zoological Park since 2008 and admitted failing to properly check the cotton top tamarins on Jan. 7, Cynthia Jardon said.
The black-and-white monkeys, which have a fan of white hair on their heads, are among the smallest new-world monkeys, topping out at a bit over a pound (half a kilogram). They need temperatures of 76 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 30 degrees Celsius). The overnight low early Jan. 8 was far below freezing.
"As a result of this single person's act of negligence we lost Kate, 12 years old, and her 2-year-old baby girl," Jardon wrote in an email to The Associated Press. The 14-year-old male, Eddie, survived, Jardon said.
Eddie was the largest of the three, and that bit of extra bulk may have saved his life, she said.
Jardon said the worker, whose name she did not know, resigned Jan. 12 after being asked to resign or be fired.
Cotton top tamarins are critically endangered, with about 1,800 in captivity and about 6,000 in a small area of northwest Colombia, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Primates have access to a heated building all day and are routinely locked into that building at night. But that night, Jardon said, the zookeeper skipped the tamarins.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service checked the zoo Jan. 21, according to a Jan 23 report forwarded by Jardon.
The inspectors found that the zoo provided all required instructions and procedures for care of the monkeys, and did not find any fault with the tamarins' exhibit or night house, Jardon said.
Alexandria Zoological Park: www.thealexandriazoo.com/
Cotton-topped tamarin care: http://www.csew.com/cottontop/enhusbandry/ench5.htm