Oakland Zoo Provides Care for Seized Marmoset Monkey

Oakland Zoo
February 6, 2024

Oakland, CA – February 6, 2024… On January 20th, Oakland Zoo worked with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Wildlife Confiscations Network (WCN) to rescue an illegally owned female marmoset in a seizure of the monkey from a private residence in southern California. The owner was arrested on other charges unrelated to having the female marmoset and was made aware in advance that the animal was to be seized by authorities. Oakland Zoo was contacted after San Diego Zoo and Los Angeles Zoo (other Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited partners) could not take in the marmoset due to the capacity concerns related to other WCN rescues they were involved with.

Estrela, a rescued female marmoset, currently under the care of the Oakland Zoo; Photo Credit Oakland Zoo

The female marmoset has been affectionately named Estrela, after the Portuguese name for the species–mico-estrela and for the star-shaped spot of fur on her forehead. Marmosets are native to South America and commonly found in Brazil.  

Estrela is currently under the care of the Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital. She underwent an extensive and thorough exam under anesthesia to test for diseases like TB, SIV (non-human primate version of HIV), and rabies, along with blood work and a CT scan. During the exam, evidence of a pre-existing fracture in her left radius and ulna was discovered, likely due to trauma experienced during her private ownership. Estrella was kept in a large birdcage by her owners, which is not suitable housing for monkeys and their movements or behavior, which likely led to her accidentally injuring herself.

"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,” says Dr. Ryan Sadler, Senior Veterinarian at Oakland Zoo.

Oakland Zoo’s Senior Veterinarian, Dr.Ryan Sadler, performing a full anesthetic exam of Estrela, a rescued female marmoset; Photo Credit Oakland Zoo

Estrela will remain in the care of the Oakland Zoo and housed in their Veterinary Hospital until she has completed her quarantine period. She will then move to her forever home at the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Texas.

Animal care involves many factors beyond just healthcare. Veterinary Hospital Keepers are keeping Estrela occupied with new enrichment items like puzzle feeders and foraging toys and providing her with audio-visual stimulation through music and videos. Estrela is building trust with her Keepers and enjoys ‘grooming time’ with them through a barrier.

Oakland Zoo has a history of rescuing animals from the illegal wildlife trade. Most of its residents are rescues, many of which were victims of this multi-billion-dollar industry. For years, animals confiscated by officials at SFO, and the Port of Oakland have been brought to Oakland Zoo for treatment, care, and permanent sanctuary.

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,” says Darren Minier, Director of Animal Welfare and Research at Oakland Zoo.

Primates are social creatures, and only their fellow primates can meet their social needs. Estrela was kept alone in a parrot cage, an inappropriate housing for a complex species, and posed several health risks for her and the humans around her. Oakland Zoo continues to evaluate her for emerging signs of possible behavioral effects of long-term chronic stress.

Estrela is currently being cared for by Oakland Zoo's Veterinary Hospital Staff; Photo Credit Oakland Zoo

The popularity of e-commerce and social media has led to a rise in exotic pet ownership. These platforms make it easy to advertise and showcase live animals, putting animal and human health at risk by spreading zoonotic diseases. Illegal wildlife trade is a significant threat to global wildlife, with thousands of species at risk of being traded unlawfully. It is considered the fourth most lucrative transnational crime, after drugs, human trafficking, and arms trafficking.

ARCAS, Oakland Zoo’s partner in Guatemala, is dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing hundreds of illegally trafficked exotic animals yearly.

To learn more about the Zoo’s efforts in Taking Action Against the Illegal Wildlife Pet Trade, please visit oaklandzoo.org/endthetrade. To support Oakland Zoo’s efforts to rescue and rehabilitate animals in need, please donate at oaklandzoo.org/supportanimals.



Oakland Zoo, home to more than 850 native and exotic animals, is managed by the Conservation Society of California (CSC); a non-profit organization leading an informed and inspired community in Taking Action for Wildlife locally and globally. With over 25 conservation partners and projects worldwide, the CSC is committed to conservation-based education and saving species and their habitats in the wild. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the national organization that sets the highest standards for animal welfare for zoos and aquariums.


The marmosets are twenty-two New World monkey species. Marmosets are native to South America and have been found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Peru. Most marmosets are about 20 cm (8 in) long. Relative to other monkeys, they show some apparently primitive features; they have claws rather than nails, and tactile hairs on their wrists. Marmosets live in family groups of three to 15, consisting of one or two breeding females, an unrelated male, their offspring, and occasionally extended family members and unrelated individuals. They're wild animals that have very specific welfare needs - it's impossible to provide an environment as complex and rich as the wild for a marmoset kept as a pet - they're tropical animals that require a warm climate.


The Wildlife Confiscations Network (‘the Network’) is a new conservation initiative that is being led through a cooperative agreement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The Network aims to create a coalition of reputable and trusted animal care facilities that can provide immediate medical care and housing for wildlife trafficked through U.S. ports of entry, allowing wildlife law enforcement to concentrate on their core functions: the investigation and prosecution of criminals.