05.16.21: A shy pygmy marmoset

The pygmy marmoset is the world’s smallest monkey. Its body length, from head to hindquarters, ranges from 4 to 6 inches. Its weight is 3 to 5 ounces. 

Coaxing a photo

from the world’s

smallest monkey

I’ve photographed animals in a number of zoos through the years. I’m used to the challenges zoos create for photographers — tall fences, dirty glass, crowds of people, etc. — and I’m used to the animals sleeping, hiding or ignoring the people watching.

But my encounter with a pygmy marmoset at the Philadelphia Zoo was a strange — and funny — experience.

This pygmy marmoset was in an indoor habitat behind thick glass. I liked how the marmoset was peeking out from behind a tree when I first saw it, so I lifted my camera to get a photo.

As soon as I brought the camera to my eye the marmoset slowly leaned behind the tree.

I thought I had missed my opportunity for a nice photo. That happens. Zoos can be difficult places for photography. I guess my timing was just wrong for this shot. I lowered my camera and started to move on.

Moments later, the marmoset leaned back out.

Coincidence?

I lifted the camera to my eye again. The marmoset leaned behind the tree again. I lowered the camera again. Moments later, it leaned back out.

Hmmm … another coincidence? Or could it be watching me through the glass?

I lifted the camera toward my face and watched the marmoset. It leaned behind the tree again.

By then, others nearby had noticed our game of hide and seek and were watching and laughing.

Moments later, the marmoset leaned back out.

This happened a few more times. The crowd watching the encounter was growing larger. I needed to prove I was smarter than a marmoset.

I lifted the camera to my eye. The marmoset leaned behind the tree. I left the camera in position and focused where the marmoset had been. Moments later it leaned out again and I grabbed a quick shot before it realized the camera was still there and leaned back.

Gotcha.

The pygmy marmoset is the world’s smallest monkey. Its body length, from head to hindquarters, ranges from 4 to 6 inches. Its weight is 3 to 5 ounces. The pygmy marmoset is native to South America, primarily  Columbia, Brazil, Ecuador, and parts of Bolivia. They will live almost all their live in the trees.. They are rarely found on the ground. 

My wife and I have visited a number of zoos through the years. Each have their own unique features.

The Philadelphia Zoo has four elevated trails: Gorilla Freeway (for gorillas, of course), Treetop Trail (for monkeys and lemurs), Great Ape Trail (for orangutans)and Big Cat Crossing (for lions, tigers, pumas and jaguars). The trails are covered with see-through mesh, allowing the animals to see out and zoo visitors to see in.

When we were there we saw a lion resting about four feet above our heads, watching people walk by. And we saw lemurs scampering and chasing in another trail.

The elevated trails are designed to provide variety for the animals. In addition to letting the animals walk outside their habitats, the trails link habitats of animals with similar requirements. This lets the zoo use a “time-sharing” system for the habitats, regularly moving animals to different habitats to give them room to roam new areas instead of staying locked into the same scenery each day.

It’s obviously good for the animals. And it provides zoo visitors a chance to see the animals close and on the move.

Pygmy marmoset watching camera in the Philadelphia Zoo.

Pygmy marmoset watching camera in the Philadelphia Zoo.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: Sep 1, 2015 3:25 PM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM 
  • Focal length: 200mm
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • Shutter: 1/320 second
  • ISO: 1250

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