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Golden Lion Tamarin

Leontopithecus rosalia

Golden Lion Tamarin at Henry Vilas Zoo

About Golden Lion Tamarin

A lion monkey?! Golden lion tamarins get their name from their thick golden mane, which looks a lot like a lion’s mane. In the 1970s, there were fewer than 200 golden lion tamarins in the wild. Now, the Brazilian government works with zoos across the world to help save them by protecting their habitat and breeding, reintroducing, and relocating them. There are now over 1,000 tamarins in the wild; one-third are descendants from individuals bred in zoos and reintroduced into the wild.


Golden lion tamarins live in closed canopies 29 to 100 feet (10 to 30 m) off the ground in the humid forests of southeastern Brazil.


They are omnivores and eat spiders, snails, small lizards, eggs, small birds, fruits, and vegetables. They use their long, skinny fingers to grab insects out of trees bark – this is called “micromanipulation.”

Family Life

Golden lion tamarins live in groups of two to eight family members. The groups are comprised of a breeding pair, offspring of one or two litters, and possibly other relatives. Baby tamarins will cling to their mothers for the first few weeks of life. After those few weeks, the male does the largest share of caring for the offspring, with the female taking them to nurse. Twins are common among golden lion tamarins. Food sharing is important among group members to maintain social bonds, seeing as they are a very social species.

Conservation Status

The conservation status of the Golden Lion Tamarin's conservation status is classified as endangered.
Endangered graphic


  • Threats to the golden lion tamarin include deforestation and habitat fragmentation.

Facts about Golden Lion Tamarin

  • Class:
    Mammalia (mammals)
  • Order:
    Primates (primates)
  • Family:
    Callitrichidae (marmosets, tamarins, capuchins, and squirrel monkeys)
  • Genus:
    Leontopithecus (lion marmosets and lion tamarins)
  • Species:
    Leontopithecus rosalia (layman)
  • Life Span:
    8 – 15 years
  • Size:
    6 – 10 inches (200 – 366 mm)
  • Weight:
    1.4 pounds (654 g)
  • Tail Length:
    12 – 15 inches (32 – 40 cm)

Fun Facts

  • Show me the money! Golden lion tamarins are a national symbol in Brazil and appear on the 20 Reais note.
  • The young golden lion tamarins spend a lot of time playing together, chasing each other, and wrestling.
  • These tamarins have a quad-gait, meaning they use their arms and legs to get around, walking on all fours. They run and walk through trees and leap between branches and vines.
  • During the early 1970s, there were as few as 200 golden lion tamarins in the wild. They were upgraded to critically endangered in 2003. Today, about one-third of the wild population originated from tamarins raised in human care.

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