Golden Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family:    Callitrichidae
Size:    Length: 8 to 13 inches (20 to 33 cm)
Weight: 1 to 2 pounds (0.45 to 0.9 kg)
Diet: Insects, small birds, eggs, fruit and vegetables
Distribution: Brazil
Young:  1 to 3, once per year
Animal Predators:  Birds of prey
IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
Terms: No special terms
Lifespan: Up to 15 years in the wild and over 30 years in captivity



·       Antonio Pigafetta, who travelled with Magellan in the 1500s, described them as “beautiful simian-like cats similar to a small lion.”

·       The golden lion tamarin is one of the most endangered of all primates.

·       The weight of males increases in May before breeding and decreases during June and July.

·       Adult golden lion tamarins of the same sex are very aggressive with each other.   



Golden lion tamarins are small monkeys that are covered in golden fur, with a lion-like mane around their face, which is bare. They have a long, fur-covered tail and long fingers on their fore and hind paws. 



Golden lion tamarins once roamed the vast forest that stretched from the Atlantic coast to the inland mountain range of Serra do Mar, but now live in a small lowland area of the coastal rain forest region in Southeast Brazil, northeast of Rio de Janeiro. They live in dense humid forests entangled by many vines and with a high density of fruit. They are very territorial and will aggressively defend their territory. They mark the boundaries of their territory using scent glands. Golden lion tamarins only travel to forage for food and rarely go farther than a mile from their nest.


Feeding Habits

Their diet consists of insects, small birds, eggs, fruit and vegetables. With their long, slender fingers they can pick insects out of crevices within tree bark.



Golden lion tamarins are monogamous and stay with the same mate for life. Most births occur during the rainy season when food is most abundant. The female gives birth to one to three, but twins are the most common. The gestation period lasts 125 to 132 days. The youngsters are born fully furred with their eyes open. The mother will care for the offspring during the first few days, but then transfers them to the father, who then becomes the primary caregiver, returning them to their mother only to nurse. Older offspring also help to care for their younger siblings. Juvenile golden lion tamarins are very playful and will wrestle and chase each other, as well as steal food from their older siblings and parents. The youngsters are weaned within 90 days, and by four months are fully independent, although they do not reach full size until one year of age. Offspring usually keep close relationships with their parents for life.



Golden lion tamarins are social little primates that live in groups of two to eight, usually made up of close family members—a mother, father and offspring. Golden lion tamarins prefer to remain high up in trees, and are able to leap and jump from branch to branch with great agility and speed, using both their fore and hind limbs. When on the ground, they walk on all fours. They sleep from dusk to dawn and often have a midday nap. They are active by day and require vitamin D from sunlight, although too much direct sunlight can be harmful. They sleep at night in a hollow tree in a fur-lined nest. Like other primates, golden lion tamarins groom themselves and each other, with males grooming females more often than the other way around. They communicate with each other using soft, faint vocalizations or, when they become alarmed or frightened, squeals. 



Golden lion tamarins nearly became extinct in the 1960s due to the destruction of their habitat and because they were being captured for the pet trade in massive numbers, as well as for research. They are highly susceptible to human diseases and when in zoos, have glass between them and visitors to protect them. Captive breeding programs in the U.S. and Europe have led to the release of several golden lion tamarins back into the wild in recent years. 



Golden Lion Tamarin Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US