Look at this cute little guy! What is it? A lion? A monkey? It’s a golden lion tamarin, also known as the golden marmoset. And although the name says lion, it’s really a monkey. It is what’s known as a New World monkey in the Callitrichidae family.
This funny-looking monkey is an endangered species, with only about 1,500 living in the wild. The golden lion tamarin lives in Brazil. It is found in the tropical rain forests in the southeastern part of the country.
The golden lion tamarin gets its name from the bright reddish-orange mane around its hairless black face. The bright coloring may come from carotenoids (organic pigments in plants and other organisms) in the food that the tamarin eats. Although it only averages about 10 inches in size and weighs less than two pounds, the golden lion tamarin is the largest of the callitrichines. It uses its tegulae — claw-like nails — to cling to tree trunks and climb along small tree branches.
The golden lion tamarin stays pretty active during the day. It sleeps in a different den each night to keep predators guessing. In the morning, it travels and feeds on fruits and flowers. Later in the afternoon, it feeds on insects before heading to the sleeping den. They sleep in hollow parts of trees or nests in vines, usually about 40 to 50 feet off the ground.
Tamarins usually live in groups of about two to eight members. This family group helps take care of the babies in the group. The female mother usually gives birth to twins and sometimes even triplets or quadruplets. She needs the help of the whole group to care for the litter. There are conservation programs to help save the tamarin in the wild. There are about 500 in captivity in zoos.
Source: Wisconsin Primate Research Center Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison, http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/golden-headed_lion_tamarin.