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Golden Lion Tamarin

Living a colorful life

With bright orange hair reminiscent of a lion’s mane, it’s easy to see where golden lion tamarins got their name (they certainly are not felines).

These small new-world monkeys are colorful in more ways than one. Not only do their vividly colored coats make them one of nature’s best dressed animals, but they also have colorful, distinctive personalities.  

Golden lion tamarins communicate with vocalizations that include high-pitched squeaks and chirps, and the Zoo’s golden lion tamarins start chirping whenever they hear a zookeeper approaching.

This monkey lives an arboreal life in coastal regions of Brazil and is equipped with claw-like nails to grip tree branches. They use their long, slender fingers and hands to probe into thin crevices looking for small lizards and insects—this behavior is called micromanipulation.  Although they might look alike at first glance, each one has distinctive features. For instance, one of the Zoo’s females sports a unique black spot on her arm.

Golden lion tamarins live in family groups called troops. The Zoo’s has tamarins live in two separate groups called troops. Troop members each have their own unique personalities—some are more timid while others are very social.

Golden lion tamarins are omnivores, meaning they eat a mix of meat (like small lizards and insects) along with veggies. With all the color in their life, it’s no surprise that the BioPark’s tamarins get a colorful diet too. They get important nutrition from marmoset chow (a nutritionally balanced diet made specifically for animals in their family tree), but zookeepers also spice up their meals with tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, zucchini, corn, bananas, grapes and other fruits and vegetables. They get additional protein from meal worms and wax worms.

Zookeepers get the tamarins to hop on a scale through the Zoo’s operant conditioning program—this helps zookeepers keep regular tabs on their weight (the species generally weighs in at just over one pound). This is just one over several proactive husbandry techniques utilized by Zoo staff.

Our actions matter

Golden lion tamarins are endangered in their native Brazil due to habitat loss and fragmentation from logging, agriculture, and industry. About 1,500 animals live in the wild, most in or near the Reserva Biologica de Poço das Antas in the state of Rio de Janeiro. The International Committee for the Conservation and Management of the Golden Lion Tamarin in Brazil is dedicated to the conservation of the species and advises the Brazilian government on research and conservation activities. 

Captive breeding programs and habitat protection have greatly increased the health of golden lion tamarin populations, and about 450 live in zoos worldwide.

You can help the species by supporting captive breeding programs and organizations like Save the Golden Lion Tamarin, which supports the Golden Lion Tamarin Association.