Primate Programs


Golden-Lion and Golden-Headed Tamarins (Leontopithecus rosalia, Leontopithecus chrysomelas)

RSCF has worked with lion tamarin recovery programs for over 30 years. These beautiful, squirrel-sized primates are endemic to the Atlantic Forest in Brazil and are critically endangered. Centuries of deforestation reduced numbers to a few hundred individuals in isolated forest fragments 80 km from Rio de Janeiro city. Intensive conservation action including reintroduction of zoo-born tamarins into forest fragments 1984–2000, increased numbers to about 3,700 in 2014. Beginning in November 2016, southeastern Brazil experienced the most severe yellow fever epidemic/epizootic in the country in 80 years. In May 2018, the first death of a golden lion tamarin due to yellow fever was documented. Population sizes were re-evaluated and compared to results of a census completed in 2014. Tamarin numbers declined 32%, with ca. 2,516 individuals remaining in situ. Tamarin losses were significantly greater in forest fragments that were larger, had less forest edge and had better forest connectivity, factors that may favor the mosquito vectors of yellow fever. The future of golden lion tamarins depends on the extent of additional mortality, whether some tamarins survive the disease and acquire immunity, and the potential development of a vaccine to protect the species against yellow fever. For more information, click here.

Pygmy Marmosets (Cebuella pygmaea)

RSCF is home to one of North Americas largest and oldest sustained breeding colony of pygmy marmosets. Pygmies are a small genus of New World monkey native to rainforests of the western Amazon Basin in South America. It is notable for being the smallest true monkey and one of the smallest primates in the world, at just over 100 grams. Tiny and highly intelligent, they live in extended family groups lead by a single breeding pair. The pygmy marmoset's IUCN conservation status is vulnerable. Due to deforestation, mining, and oil palm cultivation, the pygmy marmoset's habitat has decreased in size. The two biggest threats to the pygmy marmoset are habitat loss and the pet trade.

Pygmy Marmoset portrait