Golden Headed Lion Tamarin

line - Leontopithecus chrysomelas (Kuhl, 1820) .

HABITAT : Atlantic rain forest of Brazil.

GEOGRAPHICAL SPREAD: A small area of coastal Atlantic forest between the Rio das Contas and the Ribeirao do Salto Pardo (15°30'S), its western limit is apparently the Rio Acará, south-eastern Bahia State, Brazil. A study into th e distribution of the Golden Headed Lion Tamarin by Pinto & Tavares (1994) provided a total of 122 localities where the Tamarin still survived. The geographic distribution based on these localities, was estimated at 19,462sq. km.

CURRENT POPULATION: 550 to 600 wild population (PVA, 1990). The largest known sub-population is in the Una Biological Reserve (7,059ha) where the population total has been estimated at 416 animals. There is a large captive popu lation of Golden headed lion tamarins. In 1993 there were 575 animals held in 49 institutions (De Bois, 1994).

SIZE: Head and body length 20 to 34cm. Tail length 32 to 40cm.

WEIGHT: 0.6 to 0.8kg.

AVERAGE LIFE EXPECTANCY: Lifespan in captivity can be 15 years or longer (Nowak, 1991).

NORMAL DIET: Primarily insectivorous and frugivorous but will also eat small lizards, eggs and small birds.

NORMAL LIFESTYLE: Lives in family groups of between two and eight animals, but temporary associations of about 15 have been observed.

PREVIOUS GEOGRAPHICAL SPREAD: The original range of this tamarin were the forests which stretched from the central Bahian plateau to within a few kilometres of the coast. This forest is now greatly fragmented.

REASONS FOR DECLINE: Deforestation and habitat loss due to agriculture (including cattle ranching and cocoa plantations) and sawmills.

CURRENT THREATS: As above (habitat loss continues at about 0.5 per cent per year). Also, fire and illegal removal of animals threaten the remaining populations. Recent concern for this species arose as a result of the illegal e xport of between 50 and 60 animals to Belgium and Japan during 1983 to 1984.

CONSERVATION PROJECTS: Completely protected by national legislation. Three protected areas occur within the known range: Biological Reserve of Una (area 6,001ha); Estacao Experimental de Lemos Maia (area 495ha) and Estacao Expe rimental de Canavieiras (500ha). More land was being purchased for Una Reserve in 1990.

During the late 1980s the Brazilian Institute for the Environment established the International Committee for the Recovery and Management of the species. The recovery of this species was highly successful, and the Committee established a breeding programm e and studbook for the species. A Population Viability Analysis Workshop for the whole genus, organised by the IUCN/SSC Captive Breeding Specialist Group and the Fundaçao Biodiversitas, Belo Horizonte 1990, established recommendations and priorities for t he Conservation Plan for the species. Extensive surveys have recently been undertaken within the species estimated range, to assess the conservation status of wild populations of the Lion Tamarin (Pinto & Tavares, 1994).

The conservation of this species is greatly aided by The Lion Tamarins of Brazil Fund (LTBF), established by the International Committees for each Lion Tamarin species in 1991. Projects sponsored concerning the Golden-Headed Lion Tamarin during 1993 by th is fund include: Conservation, Ecology and Behaviour of Golden-Headed Lion Tamarins in the Una Biological Reserve, Bahia, Brazil; and the "Projecto Mico-Leao-Baiano" Environmental Education Programme (Mallinson, 1994). Pinto & Taveres (1994) recommend fur ther conservation action through environmental education programmes, and particularly the use Private Natural Heritage Reserve (RPPN) category of conservation unit now provided for in the Brazilian legislation. A Community-Based Conservation Education Pro gram for the Golden Headed Lion Tamarin is currently being undertaken within the State of Bahia, Brazil (Nagagata, 1994).

SPECIAL FEATURES: This is one of the four species of Lion Tamarin, all of which are restricted in distribution to the remnants of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. All of the species are categorised as Endangered by IUCN.


Thornback, J & Jenkins, M. 1982. The IUCN Mammal Red Data Book Part 1. IUCN. Gland. pp. 141-143.

Nowak, R.M. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. 5th ed. Vol.1. John Hopkins University Press, London. pp.439-440.

Seal, US., Ballou, J.D. & Padua, C.V. 1990. Leontopithecus Population Viability Analysis Workshop Report, Belo Horizonte, Brazil 20-23 June 1990. IUCN/SSC Captive Breeding Specialist Group, Gland.

Olney, P.J.S. & Ellis, P. (eds). 1993. 1992 International Zoo Yearbook volume 32. The Zoological Society of London, United Kingdom. 546pp.

Dietz, J.M., de Sousa, S.N.F. & da Silva, J.R.O. 1994. Population Structure and Territory Size in Golden-Headed Lion Tamarins, Leontopithecus chrysomelas. Neotropical Primates 2(suppl.). 21-23pp.

Pinto, S. & Tavares, L.I. 1994. Inventory and Conservation Status of Wild Populations of Golden-Headed Lion Tamarins, Leontopithecus chrysomelas. Neotropical Primates 2(suppl.). 24-27pp.

De Bois, H. 1994. Progress Report on the Captive Population of Golden-Headed Lion Tamarins, Leontopithecus chrysomelas - May 1994. Neotropical Primates 2(suppl.). 28-29pp.

Nagagata, E.Y. 1994. Evaluation of Community-Based Conservation: A Case Study of the Golden-Headed Lion Tamarin Education Program in the State of Bahia, Brazil. Neotropical Primates 2(suppl.). 33-35pp.

Mallinson, J.J.C. 1994. The Lion Tamarins of Brazil Fund: with Reference to the International Management Committees for Leontopithecus. Neotropical Primates 2(suppl.). 4-7pp.