For Release: June 19, 2007
John Gibbons (202) 633-3081
Sarah Taylor (202) 633-3081
National Zoo Begins Annual Golden Lion Tamarin Watch
Six tiny monkeys are now roaming the grounds of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. On Monday, June 18, National Zoo scientists and animal keepers released the animals into a wooded area of the Beaver Valley Trail as part of the annual golden lion tamarin watch. Each summer, for more than 20 years, visitors have been able to observe the free-ranging golden lion tamarins without any barrier, while volunteers record tamarin behavioral data for Zoo scientists. This summer, two adult tamarins, their 7-month-old twins and their 1-month-old twins will participate in the exhibit.
The exhibit is equipped with a nest box and ropes that mimic the jungle vines of the tamarins’ native Brazilian forest habitat. Visitors who want to view the tiny, orange monkeys should look for the Friends of the National Zoo volunteers holding clip boards, as they constantly monitor the animals’ movements for the behavioral study from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. The tamarins will be free-ranging until mid-August.
Golden lion tamarins are territorial and tend to stay within a few hundred feet of their nest box, but the Zoo’s tamarins are fitted with radio collars so scientists can track them if they are out of sight. If they wander too far, scientists can sound a recorded tamarin territory call near their nest box to attract the monkeys back to their home.
Last month, National Zoo scientist Jennifer Mickelberg traveled to Brazil with a group of colleagues to monitor the population of wild tamarins and work together with the Brazilians to discuss and develop long-term management plans for the species. This trip continues 30 years of National Zoo leadership in golden lion tamarin conservation. Thirty years ago, fewer than 200 golden lion tamarins existed in the wild. The National Zoo launched a collaborative research program in 1975 to improve husbandry and breeding protocols for zoo tamarins. The National Zoo was the principal breeder of this species and the leader in the species’ re-introduction to the wild. The free-ranging exhibit originally began as a way to prepare the captive-bred monkeys for re-introduction into the Brazilian forest. Today, as a result of the collaboration among zoos, conservation organizations and Brazilian governmental agencies, there are at least 1,500 tamarins in the wild—more than one-third of which are descendants of captive-born tamarins.
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Note to editors: Photos of the golden lion tamarins in the free-range exhibit are available through the National Zoo’s Office of Public Affairs.