Rare Species Conservatory Foundation


Description: The golden-lion tamarin (Leontopithicus rosalia) is a small, squirrel sized monkey characterized by thick, reddish-orange fur and a long tail. The tail is not prehensile. Their face and feet are bare, and adults average 20-36 cm in length, plus a 31-40 cm tail. GLTs are not sexually dimorphic--males and females look similar in appearance.

Habitat/Range: GLTs are active during the day and occur in the Atlantic coastal forest of Brazil. Because the areas GLTs inhabit have been largely deforested, historical habitat preferences are unknown. They probably prefer a humid, closed canopy with a wide variety of fruiting plants, vines and bromeliads.

Diet: GLTs, like many tamarins and marmosets, eat a wide variety of foods including fruits, nuts, vegetation, and small insects and lizards.

Social Organization: GLTs live in small family groups averaging between two and nine individuals. Females usually give birth to twins and infant care is a group activity. Mothers carry the babies only when nursing. Younger siblings care for the newborns, learning important parenting skills and establishing social bonds.

GLTs will defend their territory from other tamarins through scent marking and vocalization.

Conservation Status: GLTs are considered highly endangered and at one time were considered the most endangered primate on earth, numbering less than 100 in the wild. Captive breeding and release programs have begun to re-established wild populations, and currently approximately 1,180 golden-lion tamarins are living in the wild.

Threats to Survival: Deforestation has fragmented GLT habitat into small, unconnected areas. These insular islands are capable of supporting only small GLT populations, and the groups are suffering from isolated inbreeding. This depresses the overall fitness of the wild population and leads to many health and reproductive concerns.

Conservation: The National Zoo, partnered with the Brazillian government and global zoological facilities, has effectively managed a captive breeding and release prgram for GLTs. Were it not for the efforts of these organizaitons, the GLT could very well have become extinct in the wild. Over 450 GLTs live in zoos around the world, and captive populations are genetically managed and cultivated to supply new animals for release into protected areas populated with wild GLTs.

Education: The GLT Conservation Program is multi-faceted and has successfully incorporated educational awareness with in situ conservation efforts. The GLT is one of the world's most famous primates due in large part to the efforts of organizations like the National Zoo and Brazil's IBAMA. The Golden Lion Tamarin Association (or the Associação Mico-Leão Dourado, AMLD) was formed in Brazil in November 1992 to administer and implement the Golden Lion Tamarin Conservation Program. Previously administered by Devra Kleiman and her colleagues at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, the Conservation Program was shifted to Brazil to consolidate administrative duties nearer to the center of the conservation action. The GLT Conservation Program is now a model for successful breeding and reintroduction programs involving primates.

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