‘Every hour that passes is more stressful to him’: handler’s plea for monkey’s return

Symbio Wildlife Park owner John Radnidge (left) joins primate and carnivore keeper  Maritza Gaete and curator Kylie Radnidge to discuss the care of the two returned pygmy marmosets on Monday. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Symbio Wildlife Park owner John Radnidge (left) joins primate and carnivore keeper Maritza Gaete and curator Kylie Radnidge to discuss the care of the two returned pygmy marmosets on Monday. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Little Gomez, the pygmy marmoset still missing from Symbio Wildlife Park, is a shy individual. 

Weighing about 150 grams, the 10-year-old monkey would fit in the palm of one of your hands. 

It is in the hands of keepers at the Helensburgh zoo where police and staff want the primate to be, after he was one of three monkeys snatched from their enclosure at the weekend.

Two monkeys – a nameless four-week-old whose gender is yet to be determined and a female juvenile named Sofia – were found in separate locations on Sunday and returned to the wildlife park

Two men, a 23-year-old and a 26-year-old, were arrested and both charged with dealing with proceeds of a crime. The pair fronted Campbelltown Local Court on Monday.

Symbio staff hold out hope Gomez will soon be reunited with his family, although that hope is fading with every passing hour.

“He’s a really shy individual and he’s really protective of the young; really, really protective of the babies,” Symbio curator Kylie Radnidge told the Mercury.

“So, the fact that he’s been taken away from his family, he’s been taken away from his babies ... he won’t be coping too well with what’s going on right now.”

The nature of pygmy marmosets means Gomez shares babysitting duties with the babies’ mother –usually taking care of them for more than half of the time.

Ms Radnidge said the longer Gomez was away from his family, the more stressed he would be. 

“It depends how they have him in care, if they have an understanding of what they will feed [him],” she said.

“Most people think that primates just feed on fruits, but they eat such a variety of food and they do have a specialised diet as well, they need special dietary requirements.

“Every hour that passes, he’s not back with his family, he’s not getting the adequate feed and care that he needs.

“Ideally, we need him back today [Monday] – that’s the best case scenario.”

Ms Radnidge is one of about six handlers who look after Symbio’s primates. She was on a day off when one of the other handlers arrived on Saturday morning to find the marmosets’ enclosure had been broken into.

“[It is] just devastating, absolutely devastating,” she said.

Adding to the heartache was the fact Symbio had bred pygmy marmosets for the first time ever this year.

“We had just had our second litter, so we were so excited just to have a family starting,” she said.

“To have someone just come in and just take that away from us is just devastating.”

Meanwhile, the two returned monkeys are making progress. 

Ms Radnidge said the four-week-old baby was introduced to its mother on Sunday afternoon. 

“It straight away latched on and started suckling, which was so beautiful,” she said. 

By the time Sofia was found late on Sunday evening and returned to the park, it was too late to try and reintroduce her – she spent time with keepers overnight 

Symbio’s general manager, Matt Radnidge, described Sofia as being “very startled, very frantic” upon her return. 

“We got her back with the group this morning [Monday] and things are going well, but they’re certainly on edge so that’s why we’re totally off-limits with those guys,” Mr Radnidge said.  

The pygmy marmoset exhibit at Symbio has been closed to the public, with windows covered and walkways taped off to allow the monkeys time to regroup.

“The priority at this stage is their welfare and settling them back in so even staff time is extremely restricted to purely just feeding and observing,” he said. 

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