Golden lion tamarin



The golden lion tamarin is a small, extremely rare monkey living in a very small portion of  southeastern Brazil. 420px-Leontopithecus_rosalia_distribution.svgThese animals are easily recognized due to their bright orange or golden fur. They get their name from this fur and the long neck hair that makes a mane, resembling that of  a lion. The tail and paws of this animal may have a brown or darker gold-colored fur. Golden lion tamarins, unlike most other monkeys, do not have a prehensile tail. They are diurnal and sleep in tree holes at night. Most scientists believe that the males in this species are larger than the females, but some suggest that it is just the presence of seasonal weight variation (the males’ weight increases in May right before the breeding season). Other than this debated difference, males and females are the same. These tamarins have claws, instead of the normal nails, on the end of long, thin fingers which are perfect for catching their prey.


These small creatures are ten inches (25 cm) from their nose to the base of their tail. The tail can be around one and a half times as long as the body or 14.5 inches (37 cm). These measurements are the average, and they can range from eight to sixteen inches (20-40 cm) for the body, and twelve to sixteen inches (30-40 cm) for the tail. They weight also has a large range of fourteen to twenty-eight ounces (400-800 g). Despite being small, golden lion tamarins (sometimes called GLT’s) weigh about twice the average weight of specimens from their family which includes more than forty species.


Golden lion tamarins are omnivores, eating a variety of plants and animals. Some of their plant food includes fruit, leaves, berries, and flowers. Animals that are eaten include birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. The claws of these tamarins were made perfectly for digging insects out of trees. Sometimes golden lion tamarins have been seen chewing on trees. This could either be to get to where the insects are or to obtain the gum from these trees. Although this gum is a relatively common food, it is normally eaten only when other more preferred food is scarce. Many zoos feed tamarins fruit such as apples, bananas, and oranges along with mealworms and crickets. Other food in zoos includes mice, cockroaches, and other uninvited guests to the GLT’s enclosure that are not quick enough to escape.


Currently these animals prefer swamp forests which contain a high density of plants, especially vines. Bromeliads are also a favored plant in golden lion tamarin habitats due to the fact that they catch rainwater. Previously, most swamp forests in the area where these animals live had been destroyed, and it is unknown what habitat they lived in then. It is assumed that they liked humid forests with many vines which are used as aerial pathways.


Groups of golden lion tamarins consist of two to sixteen, with an average of five to six, individuals. Mating occurs within these groups in May through July and individuals start participating in between ages one and two. Pairs are thought to be monogamous, staying with the same mate for life.


After a four to five month gestation period, the babies, usually twins, are born. All members of the tribe help take care of and feed the young. Even juveniles from previous births help in order to gain experience. After four months, the young are fully independent and they will reach their adult size at one year of age. If they are lucky, these animals can live for 15 years in the wild or 30 in captivity.


About 1,000-1,5000 individual GLT’s live in the wild with approximately 450 in captivity. Because of their low numbers in the wild, these animals are an endangered species. There are many natural causes for such a low number including raptors, big cats, large snakes, and weasels. Habitat loss, however, is the main cause for so few golden lion tamarins in the wild. Conservation works, which include efforts to stop deforestation and the introducing of captive specimens into the wild, have raised the number of these animals left in the wild from 200, which it was thirty years ago, to the around 1,000 that it is now. In order for the wild population to be self-sustainable, the wild population must reach 2,000 by the year 2025.

Don’t forget to scroll down and leave your guess about what next week’s animal is! Also check out the coloring sheet under sources!



Photo credits:

  • Golden lion tamarin – Steve
  • Golden lion tamarin range – Oona Räisänen
  • Mystery animal – Hans Hillewaert
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