10 cool things about the golden lion tamarin

1. Monkey business

Social groups mean safety for golden lion tamarins. They live in groups of two to 10 members which consist of an adult male and his female companions. There is one breeding female in the group. Sometimes a second female will also be allowed to breed. They defend their home range by scent marking and making a variety of sounds to warn off other groups. Extended family groups may even join up and swap members.


2. Endangered Species 

The golden lion tamarin is a severely endangered species with only about 1,000 animals left in the wild. Habitat destruction is the main cause of the decline in their numbers. Less than 2% of their forest habitat remains. About 500 animals live in zoos.

3. Way down south

Tamarins are New World monkeys. This means that they are found in the tropical forests of south or central America or Mexico. The golden lion tamarin is native to the Atlantic coastal forests of Brazil. Today they occur mainly in the Poco das Antas Reserve. Other New World monkeys are capuchin monkeys, spider monkeys and uakaris.

4. Mane Name

The golden lion tamarin, or golden marmoset, is named for his beautiful rust coloured, silky mane that looks very much like that of an African lion. He gets his unusual hair colour from the sun and carotenoids in the food he eats. Carotenoids are plant pigments, like carotene found in carrots. There are four species of lion tamarins.


5. Breeding season

September to March each year is breeding season. One litter per year is average but there may be a second litter. Gestation is around 130 days and the mother will have twins. She diligently feeds and cares for her youngsters until the start of weaning at around 15 weeks. Sadly, only half the babies survive the first year.

6. Day and night

Golden tamarins are diurnal, they sleep at night and are active during the day as they forage for food and care for their young. They spend plenty of time in the trees and sleep in hollows or nesting holes. The trees alone are not an escape from predators like big cats, snakes and hawks found in their habitat, but these cosy sleeping quarters offer safety at night. During the day tamarins are active and will jump from tree to tree.

7. Dining delights

The golden lion tamarin is omnivorous and has a varied diet. He feeds on anything he can find in his habitat, including fruit, plants, frogs, lizards, insects and even honey if he finds it.


8. Friendly flok

The family group forms a strong bond and can often be found sitting closely together. They groom one another intensely and communicate with a range of calls that sound like a series of clicks and whines. They use a distinct alarm call to warn family members of an approaching predator.

9. Cute as a button

The golden lion tamarin is about the size of a squirrel. He measures about 22mm and weighs between 400g and 800g! He has a long, fluffy tail that is longer than his body – around 34cm! Unlike most other New World monkeys, the golden lion tamarin’s tail is not prehensile and he can’t use it to grab on to tree limbs. He does have claw-like nails on his fingers and toes and uses them to climb trees. The golden lion tamarin’s face is hairless and his paws are black. Males and females look alike.


10. Dad, you’re the best

Tamarin fathers play a big role in raising their young. They carry the babies on their backs and help with feeding times when they are old enough to eat solid food. Both parents will ‘mash’ food between their fingers before giving it to their little ones. Other members of the group also pitch in to help.



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