It’s not difficult to see where golden lion tamarins get their name from! While they might be small (just 8 inches tall on average), their bright orange manes are every bit as impressive as that of an African lion.
Along with their distinctive mane, these tamarins have long tails which they use to balance as they leap on all four limbs from tree to tree. They have claws instead of nails, and use them to help climb and to extract food from crevices and holes.
Golden lion tamarins are native to the lowland Atlantic Coastal Rainforest of southeastern Brazil, which reaches altitudes of up to 1,600 feet. They are territorial, and family groups often protect a range of around 123 acres, which is a big patch for such small animals! When they notice nearby predators, such as cats, snakes and birds of prey, golden lion tamarins will alert each other using specific alarm calls.
An endangered species
Golden lion tamarins are listed as Endangered in the wild. This is due to fragmented habitats – as a result of logging and rainforest development – as well as outbreaks of diseases such as yellow fever. The following actions are needed to ensure that there is a future for golden lion tamarins:
- Building forest corridors and planting trees
- Vaccinating the wild population against diseases like yellow fever
- Conducting activities that ensure their wellness, like stopping poaching for the illegal pet trade
- Raising awareness about the species and their endangered status
A cause for celebration
While the situation for golden lion tamarins remains precarious, there is cause for celebration too. Before 2003, the species was actually classed as Critically Endangered (meaning that a species is almost already extinct), but the tamarins were brought back from the brink thanks to a breeding programme that started in the 1970s.
A total of 146 zoo-born golden lion tamarins – including one from our sister zoo in Paignton – were reintroduced to Brazil between 1984 and 2000. Now, more than 70% of the current wild golden lion tamarin population are descended from these monkeys and the wild population has recovered significantly.
Today, 156 zoos across the world – including Newquay Zoo – collaborate in maintaining a population that acts as insurance in case a disaster wipes out a large number of animals in the wild.
This is just one of the ways that Newquay is protecting at-risk animals and helping to halt species decline.
If you’re visiting us today, then look out for our golden lion tamarin talk, where you’ll get to learn loads more facts about this spectacular species and our very own tamarin Medo. He lives on the same island as our silvery marmosets, which is between Lemur Island and the agouti enclosure.
If you can’t visit today, you can always discover more facts in our Animal A-Z:
Spread the message far and wide! Help raise awareness about this magnificent little monkey by posting about Golden Lion Tamarin Day and using the hashtag #savetheGLT.