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Golden Headed Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysomelas) | Endangered Species Series


Length: body - 22-26cm, tail - 33-40cm

Weight: 480-700g (1-1.5 lbs)

Home range: Brazil

Habitat: rain forests

Diet: fruits, seeds, lizards

Social Structure: live in family groups started by a mated pair, up to 8 individuals

Lion tamarins usually give birth to twins.

The Golden Headed Lion Tamarin's name describes its appearance perfectly, as the long, orange mane around its face is reminiscent of a male lion's. When in danger, the tamarin raises its mane and fur to look bigger. Males and females are similar in appearance, as are the young, but unlike most other primates, it is the females that are larger than the males.

Tamarin collage (wm).jpg

"There can be more than one adult male and female in the group but only one female actually breeds. The other females’ reproduction is suppressed by the behavioural domination by the reproductive female, and by the effects of her pheromones and genital gland scent. Males and other group members play a major role in caring for the young. The co-operative breeding system of callitrichids appears to be unique amongst primates, and serves to help the breeding female care for the offspring. Lactation and feeding the young demands a great deal of energy, and so males and other group members often carry the young, allowing the female more time to forage and feed, while other members of the group also help by surrendering food morsels to the young and breeding female. This explains why the female is usually larger in size than the male."*

The Golden Headed Lion Tamarin is among the most critically endangered species in the world because of habitat loss and illegal capture. There are only about 6,000 remaining in the wild. Currently, only 2-5% of their original habitat still remains. Their habitat is one of the first to be cleared because they live in lowland forests. This animal is victim to illegal capture because its striking appearance makes it very popular in zoos and a prize pet.

"Lion tamarins are now flagship species used in education programmes as ambassadors for their endangered rainforest habitat. To save the species, the Atlantic coastal forest has to be saved, which encourages people to protect the whole ecosystem."*

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