Four new cuties move in at Natureland

                                                        Peru, the Pygmy Marmoset.

                                                        Peru, the Pygmy Marmoset.

Two of the world's smallest monkeys have crossed the Cook Strait to make a new home in Nelson.

Pygmy marmosets Peru, 1, and Gemini, 3, will be permanent residents at Natureland after travelling from Wellington Zoo and they are expected to have a family on the way in the not-too-distant future.

Pygmy marmosets, the world's smallest breed of monkey, breed up to three times a year and most often give birth to twins.

Natureland director Mike Rutledge said welcoming the monkeys was a proud day for the staff.

Curator Meg Rutledge said it was exciting to have the little guys around.

"Everyone's initial instinct is 'oh they're so cute I want one'."

But she said the team was trying send a strong message that monkeys should not be kept as pets. The pet trade is the biggest threat to the pygmy marmosets.

"We're really keen on teaching that these guys aren't pets so we don't really want to make them into pets for ourselves. But it is important that we have a positive relationship with them.

"We need to be able to get near to them to check their health on a daily basis but we don't want them crawling around our pockets or things like that, getting too comfortable."

She expected that the pair would breed when they had established a bond. Natureland could house about six marmosets.

The offspring typically stay with their parents to learn the skills of raising infants before having their own.

Once they have learnt the adequate skills Natureland would send some of its marmosets to other zoos and wildlife sanctuaries around New Zealand.

Natureland is only the second wildlife centre to have a breeding pair in Australasia.

The monkeys are living with a pair of agoutis who have also come from Wellington Zoo. The agoutis are a relation of the guinea pig and their natural habitat is in the South American rain forests, the same as the pygmy marmosets.

Nelson mayor Rachel Reese officially opened the enclosures yesterday and thanked the Rutledges for their large contribution to the community with transforming Natureland into what it is today.