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Zoo cares for illegally owned marmoset monkey


The Zoo is taking care of the animal after she was seized by California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials

Estrela in the care of Oakland Zoo (Image courtesy of Oakland Zoo)

Estrela in the care of Oakland Zoo (Image courtesy of Oakland Zoo)

Last month, Oakland Zoo, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and the Wildlife Confiscation Network (WCN) worked together to rescue Estrela, a female marmoset, that was illegally owned on a private residence in southern California. The owner was arrested on other unrelated charges to owning the marmoset and was made aware that the animal was going to be seized.

According to the organizational release,1 after seizing Estrela, authorities reached out to San Diego Zoo and Los Angeles Zoo, but both could not take her because of capacity concerns related to other WCN rescues they were involved with. This led authorities to contact Estrela’s current home, Oakland Zoo.

Estrela had an extensive exam under anesthesia when she arrived at Oakland where they tested her for tuberculosis, simian immunodeficiency viruses, the non-human primate version of HIV, and rabies, and then took bloodwork and performed a CR scan. The team found evidence of a pre-existing fracture in her left radius and ulna, which was likely caused by the trauma she experienced while she was privately owned. Authorities learned she was kept in a large birdcage, which is not sustainable housing for monkeys because it does not give them enough space for their movements or behaviors. Her housing is believed to be the cause of her injuries because it's possible she accidentally injured herself.

Estrela being examined at the Oakland Zoo Veterinary Hospital (Image courtesy of Oakland Zoo)

Estrela being examined at the Oakland Zoo Veterinary Hospital (Image courtesy of Oakland Zoo)

"In all likelihood, this injury is from the animal being housed inappropriately. The bones had healed but were malaligned, which can impact her movement. She appears to be compensating well, but we continue to watch her mobility closely,” said Ryan Sadler, DVM, DACZM, senior veterinarian at Oakland Zoo.1

Estrela, who was named after the Portuguese name for the species mico-estrela and the star shape on her forehead, will remain in the care of the Oakland Zoo team and live in their veterinary hospital until her quarantine period ends. Estrela is being kept busy by the veterinary hospital keepers with enrichment toys like puzzles and providing audio-visual stimulation through music and videos. The team has reported she is starting to trust them and is enjoying grooming time through the barriers.

This is not the first time the Oakland Zoo rescued an animal from the illegal wildlife trade. The zoo’s rehabilitated its fennec foxes, Aldabra tortoises, and Amazon macaws after they were rescued from the illegal pet trade.2

“The best intentions of private owners, while understandable, in no way compensate for the innate needs of the individual animals housed as pets, many of which suffer the effects of chronic stress, malnutrition, and other maladies,” explained Darren Minier, MAIS, director of animal welfare and research at Oakland Zoo.

The team at Oakland Zoo will continue to evaluate her for signs of potential behavioral effects of long-term chronic stress. Once her quarantine period is completed, Estrela will be transferred to her new home, the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Texas.


  1. Oakland Zoo provides care for seized marmoset monkey. News release. Oakland Zoo. February 6, 2024. Accessed February 6, 2024. https://www.oaklandzoo.org/news/marmoset-monkey#:~:text=On%20January%2020th%2C%20Oakland,private%20residence%20in%20southern%20California.
  2. Take action against illegal wildlife trade. Oakland Zoo. Accessed February 6, 2024. https://www.oaklandzoo.org/end-illegal-wildlife-trade
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