Tamarins and marmosets are the smallest monkeys (primates) in the world. The golden lion tamarin is the largest and related to the golden headed and golden rumped tamarins - all are among the most endangered of all mammals.

Golden lion tamarins and humans

The attractive appearance of the golden lion tamarin has been its downfall in the past. The species has been known to Europeans since they first explored Brazil and it has been popular as a pet since the seventeenth century. European ladies used to keep one, as was the fashion, in their muffs. Later, the pet trade was joined by a trade in the animals for zoos and research.

The export of tamarins is illegal (although the practice is known to continue) but the forests are being felled at an alarming rate. It has been estimated that only two or three per cent of the golden lion's original wild habitat is still in existence. Unlike some of its relatives, the golden lion tamarin will not move to and settle in disturbed forest. Forest destruction is the main reason why it has become an endangered species. Probably less than 150 survive in the wild - no-one knows the exact number - and these are mainly restricted to the only remaining coastal rainforest in a 5,000 hectare reserve known as Poco das Antas, which was created in 1974 by a dedicated Brazilian biologist, Dr. Adelmar Coimbra Filho, who had been studying tamarins for many years.

Read More: The future

Related Resources