Animal Info - Golden Lion Tamarin

(Other Names: Golden Lion Marmoset, Mico Leao Dourado, Sauim Vermelho, Sauí-piranga, Singe-lion, Tamarin Soyeux)

Leontopithecus rosalia (L.r. rosalia, Leontideus r.)

Status: Endangered


Contents

1. Profile (Picture)
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, Taxonomy, Population Estimates, History of Distribution, Threats and Reasons for Decline)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Size and Weight, Habitat, Age to Maturity, Gestation Period, Birth Season, Birth Rate, Dispersal, Maximum Age, Diet, Behavior, Social Organization, Age and Gender Distribution, Mortality and Survival, Density and Range, Minimum Viable Population)
5. References


Profile

Pictures: Golden Lion Tamarin #1 (36 Kb JPEG) (AZA New World Prim. TAG); Golden Lion Tamarin #2 (40 Kb JPEG) (CITES)

Lion tamarins have a mane derived from long hairs on the top of the head, cheeks and throat. The golden lion tamarin's color is predominantly golden with occasional orange, brown or black coloration on the tail and forepaws. It weighs about 0.5 kg (1.1 lb) and averages about 25 cm (10") in head/body length, not counting the tail. 

The golden lion tamarin prefers primary lowland tropical forest from sea level to 1000 m (3300'). Golden lion tamarins are omnivorous, feeding on fruits, gum, nectar, insects, and small vertebrates. The golden lion tamarin is diurnal and predominantly arboreal. It is usually found at heights of 3 - 10 m (10 - 30') above the forest floor. It sleeps there at night in tangled vegetation or, more often, in a hole in a tree, such as an abandoned woodpecker nest. 

Most golden lion tamarins live in reproductive groups that occupy stable territories. The average number of individuals/group in one study was 5.4.  In the wild, groups usually consist of one breeding adult of each sex and younger animals. Golden lion tamarins are cooperative breeders: all adult members of a group help to carry and feed the offspring of the group, with the adult male commonly doing the largest share. The mother only takes the babies to nurse them. 

In the 19th century, the golden lion tamarin occurred in Brazil in the coastal forests of the states of Rio de Janeiro and Espirito Santo. By the early 1980's it was known only from remnant forests in the state of Rio de Janeiro in an area of occupied habitat probably totaling considerably less than 900 sq km (350 sq mi). The wild population is currently fragmented into 17 different subpopulations in isolated forest patches throughout its small range. 

More than 90% of the original Atlantic coastal forest, which contains the golden lion tamarin's habitat, has been lost or fragmented to obtain lumber and charcoal and to clear out areas for plantations, cattle pasture, and development. Capture for zoos and private collections also contributed to its decline in the past.  The golden lion tamarin is still under severe threat from continued deforestation, much of which is undertaken to create weekend beach properties. Less than 2% of the forest remains in the region where the golden lion tamarin lives. 


Tidbits

*** The Jesuit Antonio Pigafetta, who documented Magellan's voyage around the world, referred to lion tamarins as "beautiful, simian-like cats similar to small lions." (Macdonald 2001)

*** Thanks to a massive conservation education campaign, the golden lion tamarin has become a source of pride to Brazilians and a national symbol of conservation. (Cohn 1991; AZA 1998c).

*** Between 1984 and 1991 a higher percentage of wild-born offspring of re-introduced golden lion tamarins survived in the wild than did their captive-born parents. This suggests that the re-introduced tamarin population may eventually become independent of people. (Primack 1993)


Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

Countries Where the Golden Lion Tamarin Is Currently Found:

2004: Occurs in Brazil (IUCN 2004).

Taxonomy:

In the past, both the golden-headed lion tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysomelas) and the golden-rumped lion tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysopygus) were considered subspecies of the golden lion tamarin. 

Population Estimates:

[Note: Figures given are for wild populations only.]

History of Distribution:

In the 19th century, the golden lion tamarin occurred in Brazil in the coastal forests of the states of Rio de Janeiro and Espirito Santo south of the Rio Doce. By 1981 it was known only from remnant forests in the Rio Sao Joao Basin in the state of Rio de Janeiro in an area of occupied habitat probably totaling considerably less than 900 sq km (350 sq mi). (Kleiman 1981)  

After nearly 30 years of conservation efforts, the population has increased and is now estimated to include more than 1,000 individuals. One-third of this population is the direct result of a successful re-introduction program. There is little room for expansion for the wild population, however, because of the extreme fragmentation and loss of forest cover within its range. Current and future conservation efforts are aimed at addressing this problem with reforestation and the establishment of habitat corridors. (IUCN 2004)

Distribution Map #1 (7 Kb GIF) 
Distribution Map #2 (22 Kb GIF) (National Zoo)
Distribution Map #3 (275 Kb JPEG) (Inst. Ciên. Biol.)

Threats and Reasons for Decline:

More than 90% of the original Atlantic coastal forest, which contains the golden lion tamarin's habitat, has been lost or fragmented to obtain lumber and charcoal and to clear out areas for plantations, cattle pasture, and development. Capture for zoos and private collections also contributed to its decline in the past.  The golden lion tamarin is still under severe threat from continued deforestation, much of which is undertaken to create weekend beach properties. Less than 2% of the forest remains in the region where the golden lion tamarin lives. 

Recently, predation became a serious problem in some areas. Golden lion tamarins in the Poco das Antas Reserve have always been taken by predators such as hawks, owls, boa constrictors and small cats. In most cases, the golden lion tamarin group loses 1 or 2 individuals.  However, in the late 1990's, a predator learned how to get into a tamarin group's tree den at night and kill a number of members of the group, or even the entire group. For a while the identity of the predator was not known. It is now believed that it may be the tayra (Eira barbara) - a small weasel-type of animal - that has learned to dig tamarins out of their nest holes where they rest at night. (Franklin & Dietz 2001, Natl. Zoo 2004a, WWF 2004)


Data on Biology and Ecology

Size and Weight:

The head and body length of the golden lion tamarin is 20 - 34 cm (8 - 13").  The tail is even longer.  Golden lion tamarins weigh 0.41 - 0.65 g (0.90 - 1.4 lb). Males are larger than females. (Rowe 1996, Emmons & Feer 1997)

Habitat:

The golden lion tamarin prefers primary lowland tropical forest from sea level to 1000 m (3300 ft), although it sometimes is found in secondary forest and cultivated areas.

In the Poço das Antas Reserve, golden lion tamarins prefer swamp forest. Swamp forest contains many vines and bromeliads, and has a high density of fruit and animal foods. The tangles of vines provide easy arboreal pathways and protection from aerial predators. The bromeliads host many insects and small vertebrates that are important tamarin foods. The bromeliads are also an important water source. (Smithson. Inst. 2004)

The golden lion tamarin is one of the species that live in both the Atlantic Forest Biodiversity Hotspot (Cons. Intl.) and the Brazilian Atlantic Forests Global 200 Ecoregion. (Olson & Dinerstein 1998, Olson & Dinerstein 1999)

Age to Maturity:

18 months. (Smithson. Inst. 2004)

Gestation Period:

125 - 132 days.

Birth Season:

September - March.

Birth Rate:

There is 1 or sometimes 2 litters/year, usually consisting of twins. In the Poço das Antas Reserve, 78 % of golden lion tamarin litters are twins (Raboy et al. 2001).

Number of offspring/female/year: Average: 1.94 offspring/female/year (0 offspring: 0.19; 1 offspring: 0.06; 2 offspring: 0.52; 3 offspring: 0.06; 4 offspring: 0.17) (Seal et al. 1990).

Dispersal:

Dispersing female tamarins are aggressively chased from established territories, unless a rare breeding vacancy is available. A dispersing tamarin apparently does not survey either potential mates or territories, but settles in the first available breeding position or unoccupied area that it encounters. Only about 24% of dispersing females successfully joined a new group. (Dietz & Baker 1993)

Maximum Age:

At least 28 years (captivity).  (Smithson. Inst. 2004)

Diet:

Golden lion tamarins are omnivorous, feeding on fruits (80 % of their diet), gum, nectar, insects, and small vertebrates. Golden lion tamarins actively search crevices, bark, bromeliads, and other hiding places for their prey. Their hands, fingers, and claws are long and thin, to probe into bark and crevices for grubs. (Burnie & Wilson 2001, Smithson. Inst. 2004)

Behavior:

The golden lion tamarin is diurnal and predominantly arboreal. It retires at dusk and sleeps until after sunrise. This tamarin is usually found at heights of 3 - 10 m (10 - 30 ft) above the forest floor. There it sleeps at night in tangled vegetation or, more often, in a hole in a tree, such as an abandoned woodpecker nest. The golden lion tamarin uses tree holes at least 10 cm (4 in) in diameter and bromeliads at least 70 cm (28 in) in diameter as sleeping sites (Dietz & Baker 1993, Burnie & Wilson 2001Smithson. Inst. 2004)

Social Organization:

Most golden lion tamarins live in reproductive groups that occupy stable territories. The average number of individuals/group in one study was 5.4 +/- 2.05 (range: 2 - 11, n: 211).  In the wild, groups usually consist of one breeding adult of each sex and younger animals. The group members could be related (i.e. a family group) but transfer of animals between groups has been seen and may be quite common. Golden lion tamarin groups stay together until the adolescents move off to start their own group. Young females often leave first. This is unlike most other primate species. (Dietz & Baker 1993, Koebner 1994, Smithson. Inst. 2004)

A tamarin group actively delineates the boundaries of its territory to warn other tamarins against entering it. This is accomplished through vocalizations and scent marking during ritualized group encounters. Actual fighting does not occur. (Smithson. Inst. 2004)

In territorial groups of golden lion tamarins, approximately 70 % of adult males contribute to reproduction. About 40% of the groups contain 2 adult males unrelated to the reproductive female, but only 1 male per group is likely to contribute genetically in any given year (The dominant male monopolizes mating with the reproductive female when she is likely to conceive.). (Seal et al. 1990; Dietz & Baker 1993)

Some subordinate females breed, but only in the absence of aggression by resident dominant females. The survival rate of the offspring of subordinate females is half that of the offspring of dominant females. Golden lion tamarins are cooperative breeders. All adult members of a group actively help to carry and feed the offspring of the group's reproductive female(s), with the adult male commonly doing the largest share. The mother only takes the babies to nurse them.   (Dietz & Baker 1993, Smithson. Inst. 2004)

Age and Gender Distribution:

Per cent of males and females in four age classes:

  • 0 - 9 months: 9.1 (females); 8.5 (males)
  • 9-18 months: 10.5 (females); 9.6 (males)
  • 18-30 months: 8.3 (females); 8.8 (males)
  • > 30 months: 19.9 (females); 25.4 (males)

Only the age class older than 30 months differed significantly from a 1:1 sex ratio.

(Dietz & Baker 1993)

Mortality and Survival:

Survival:

  • Infant: 0.87
  • Infancy to 2 years or dispersal (whichever comes first): 0.9
  • First year following dispersal: 0.5 (female); 0.67 (male)
  • Overall from birth to reproductive status: 0.39 (female); 0.52 (male)
  • Adult (annual): 0.85 (female); 0.86 (male)

(Seal et al. 1990)

Density and Range:

Observed density: 1 animal/8 hectares (1 animal/20 acres) (Seal et al. 1990)

Average size of 47 sampled territories: 41.4 hectares (range 6.7 - 117 hectares) (avg. 104 acres; range 16.8 - 293 acres) (Dietz & Baker 1993)

Minimum Viable Population:

Minimum viable population density: 0.4 individuals/sq km (1.0 individuals/sq mi) (Silva & Downing 1994).


References

Animals of the Rainforest, Anon. 1994d, Arkive, AZA 1998c, AZA New World Prim. TAG, Ballou & van Roode 2002Burnie & Wilson 2001, Burton & Pearson 1987, CITES, Cohn 1991, Cons. Intl., Curry-Lindahl 1972, Dietz & Baker 1993, Emmons & Feer 1997, Entwistle & Dunstone 2000, Fitter 1974, Franklin & Dietz 2001, Galetti 1997, Graber 2003, Hatton et al. 1984, Inst. Ciên. Biol., IUCN 1968, IUCN 1994, IUCN 1996, IUCN 2000, IUCN 2003a, IUCN 2004, Kleiman 1981, Kleiman & Mallinson 1998, Koebner 1994, Macdonald 1984, Macdonald 2001, Mittermeier 1987, Natl. Zoo 2004a, Natl. Zoo - Cons. Sci., Nowak & Paradiso 1983, Olson & Dinerstein 1998, Olson & Dinerstein 1999, Perry 1971, Primack 1993, Prim. Info. Net, Rowe 1996, Rylands et al. 1997, Seal et al. 1990, Silva & Downing 1994, Smith. Inst. GLTCP, WWF 2004 


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Last modified: September 10, 2006;

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