Golden Lion Tamarin

The Golden lion tamarin or golden marmoset as alternately called gets its name after the golden on its face and body giving it a lion-like look.

Scientific Classification


Table Of Content

Scientific Classification


This little guy has been a South American native but now occupies zoos worldwide. It is a beloved part of Brazil’s heritage and, since 2010, features on the 20 BRL currency note.

Golden Lion Tamarin


Height: 6-10 inches (15-25 cm) with a tail length of 12-15 inches (32-40 cm)

Weight: 17-24 ounces (482-680 grams)

Head and Face: The face is the only part of the head that remains hairless and dark. The rest of the head is covered in its signature fur.

Body and Coloration: A distinctive golden orange fur covers their entire body. Occasionally parts of their forearm and tail have tinges of brown, orange, or black.

Limbs: They have slender fingers, longer than their forearms. Their thumbs aren’t completely opposable, making it challenging for them to grip objects well.

Range and Distribution

The Golden lion tamarin lives in southeastern Brazil, mainly in three small areas of the tropical rainforests: Fazenda União Biological Reserve, Poço das Antas Biological Reserve, and the Reintroduction Program’s private land.

They also inhabit the Sao Joao River Basin of Rio de Janeiro.

Their range is limited to three distinct areas in southeastern Brazil’s tropical rainforests, namely the Fazenda União Biological Reserve and Poço das Antas Biological Reserve, alongside the private land reserved by the Reintroduction Program initiated to conserve these tamarins.

Where Do They Live?

These tamarins inhabit humid forest areas, where plants like bromeliads and vines grow.

Golden Lion Tamarin Habitat
Golden Lion Tamarin Tail

How long do they live?

They live for 10-12 years in the wild and 20 years in captivity.


It has a diverse, omnivorous diet consisting of sweet fruits, flowers, nectar, bird eggs, frogs, insects, and small vertebrates. 

Behavioral Characteristics

  • They sleep from dusk until sunrise with a midday nap in tree hollows for warmth and protection against predators.
  • These social animals live in groups of 2-8, generally consisting of one breeding pair, offspring of one or two litters, and possibly other relatives.
  • They show excellent camaraderie by sharing meals with their fellow tamarins, and even protecting group members by aggressively dealing with enemies and even mobbing them.
  • The golden lion tamarin forage using the micromanipulation technique, pulling their prey out from leaves or crevices with their fingers.
  • Their communication involves about 17 different types of calls, each indicating a separate purose, for instance, ‘rasps’ depict playful behavior, ‘whine’ means alarm, and ‘clucks’ stand for aggressive encounters.
  • This species is highly territorial and aggressive towards intruders. Upon meeting their rival groups, they express their displeasure through verbal gestures like chasing and scolding, and scent marking their domains.
Pics of Golden Lion Tamarin
Pictures of Golden Lion Tamarin


Golden lion tamarins are quadrupeds, using their limbs to move through trees and leap between branches and vines.


The primary predators include hawks, eagles, falcons, buzzards, cats, and snakes.

They can attack the tamarin in its tree hollows, sometimes wiping out the whole family.


  • It has a unique feature that sets it apart from other primates: long fingers and claws, which help it dig food from tiny crevices.
  • They have powerful legs, making them excellent climbers, helping them reach their hollows high up in the trees quickly.
  • Their long tails aids in balance as they propel themselves from one branch to the other in the forest canopy. 
Baby Golden Lion Tamarin
Male Golden Lion Tamarin

Mating and Reproduction

The mating system followed by these primates is monogamous, i.e., they mate with only one partner. Their reproduction is dependent on rainfall, being highest during the rainy season.

Generally, tamarins give birth to twins, although occasionally, triplets or quadruplets are born.

Life Cycle

Females mature sexually between 15 and 20 months but can reproduce only when they are 30 months. Males may reach puberty by 28 months.

Their gestation period lasts for four months. For the first four weeks, the babies are entirely dependent on their mothers. By week five, they eventually get independent and begin exploring the surroundings around them.

All the group members assist the new mother to take care of the babies, but the father helps the most by carrying the young on their backs in between feedings.

The young reach their juvenile stage at 17 weeks, while the sub-adult phase is attained at 14 months, post which they would display adult behavior.

Conservations Status

The IUCN lists these tamarins as “EN” or “Endangered”. The species was near extinction in 1996, with only 200 members left in the wild and the IUCN declaring it to be “Critically Endangered”. Conservation efforts by zoos and other groups allowed the population to rise to approximately 3000 in captivity and around 490 in the wild, and it got downgraded back to “Endangered”.

Recently (as of 2021), they are undergoing an epidemic of yellow fever, causing the population to plummet as administering any vaccine has been difficult due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Golden Lion Tamarin Images.
Pictures of Golden Lion Tamarin Monkeys

Interesting Facts

  • The International Golden Tamarin Day was observed for the first time on August 2, 2017. The following year, August 2 was declared as National Golden Tamarin Day by the government of Brazil.

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