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Golden-lion Tamarin

Scientific Name: Leontopithecus rosalia

Photo courtesy of ©Richard W. Rokes.


Golden-lion tamarins (GLT’s) are squirrel-sized primates with brilliant golden fur. The common name “lion” refers to the mane on the shoulders. GLT’s live in small family groups consisting of an adult male, female and their juvenile offspring. Their vocalizations consist of trills, clucks and whines and are more reminiscent of birdcalls than monkeys. A tamarin’s diet consists primarily of insects and fruit, but they also eat spiders, snails, lizards, eggs and small birds.


Golden-lion tamarins are found only in the lowland rainforests of southeastern Brazil. They are highly arboreal, and are generally found 10 to 30 feet up in the trees and rarely, if ever, descend to the forest floor.

Status in the Wild

All four species of lion tamarin, including the golden, are listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The numbers of these critically endangered monkeys have declined largely due to the destruction of its forest habitat for lumber, agriculture, pasture and housing. Riverbanks Zoo has exhibited and bred this species since 1981 and they can be found in the small mammal exhibits near Kangaroo Walkabout. In addition, GLT’s from Riverbanks were released in the wild in 1987 and 1990.