- A-Z Animals
The emperor tamarin is a species of small New World monkeys that are distinguished by their long, white hairs and whiskers that resemble a mustache. It has been allegedly named after the last German emperor of Prussia, Wilhelm II, who wore the popular Kaiser mustache. It is a tree-dwelling monkey found in the Amazon Rainforest in South America.
The emperor tamarin has two distinct subspecies – the black-chinned emperor tamarin and the bearded emperor tamarin. While both the subspecies have a long, white mustache, the bearded tamarin has a visually striking white-haired beard, unlike the black-chinned tamarin’s faint whiskers on the chin.
Size: Its head-to-body length ranges from 23-26 cm (9-10 in), while its long tail measures about 35-41 cm (13.8-16.1 in).
Weight: The emperor tamarin, being a small primate, weighs about 500 g (1.1 lb).
Color: An emperor tamarin’s fur is gray, and its chest has yellowish spots. It has a black face, hands, and feet while the tail is reddish-brown. A white tuft of hair also runs along its underside.
Body: As compared to most of the other primate species, the emperor tamarin has a small body covered with thick, brindled fur. It has narrow hands characterized by non-opposable thumbs.
Mustache: Emperor tamarin has an elegant, long, white mustache that extends to both sides of its shoulders.
Claws: Instead of nails, the emperor tamarin has long claws on all the digits except for its big toe.
The emperor tamarin is found in Peru, as well as in parts of Bolivia and Brazil that are included in the southwest Amazon Basin. Its range includes the eastern side of upper Purus river, the area between Rio Acre and the Purus river, the eastern side of upper Jurua river, the Jurupari river and Tarauaca river, then to the west of Inuya river and Urubamba river, and finally to the south of the Tahuamanu river.
These New World monkeys typically inhabit the tropical lowlands of the Amazon Basin but may live in parts of montane rainforests. It prefers living in old-growth or primary forests where its habitat has not yet been disturbed by humans.
Emperor tamarins have a lifespan of 10-20 years in the wild, but they may live for up to 23-24 years in captivity.
The emperor tamarin, being an omnivorous animal, feeds on fruits, flowers, leaves, and the gums, saps, and nectar of trees available in its habitat. It sometimes consumes animal prey, including frogs and insects.
As seasonal breeders, the emperor tamarins give birth during the rainy season when food is available in abundance. Their family groups include several sexually mature individuals, comprising two breeding males and one breeding female. The breeding female mates with all the breeding males in a group because these tamarins have a polyandrous mating system.
Their gestation lasts for 140-145 days, after which the female usually gives birth to 1-2 offspring (rarely, 3). Adults males also help by taking the baby immediately after birth and then washing it.
The mother emperor tamarin carries and feeds its babies every two to three hours for about 30 minutes each time. Then the males carry the infants on their backs and care for them. The infants ride on their parents’ backs for around 6-7 weeks, and they are weaned at 2-3 months of age. A young emperor tamarin attains sexual maturity when it is 16-20 months old.
At birth, the baby emperor tamarin is entirely helpless. Its body is covered with short hair, and it weighs roughly 35 g (1.2 oz).
The IUCN has classified the emperor tamarin’s status as ‘Least Concern’. However, their current population has been in decline because of forest fragmentation, deforestation, and encroachment by humans. Their populations at Manuripi-Health Amazonian Wildlife National Reserve in Bolivia and Manu National Park in Peru are protected.