Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



The Golden-Headed Lion Tamarin Connection
Using GIS to evaluate population viability and genetic diversity of golden-headed lion tamarins

golden-headed lion tamarinsEndangered golden-headed lion tamarins, or GHLTs (Leontopithecus chrysomelas), endemic to Southern Bahia state in Brazil, endure constant threats of habitat loss and habitat fragmentation because of the severe deforestation occurring in Brazil's Atlantic forest. Little is known about GHLTs' current distribution and how it has changed in the years since a study was carried out in the early 1990s; however, given the rapid rate of deforestation throughout the GHLT range, population estimates are likely smaller than previously calculated. Golden-headed lion tamarins, a flagship species of the Atlantic forest in Southern Bahia, require large areas of forest to guarantee their long-term survival. Preserving the lion tamarins' habitat will likely also save many other important Atlantic forest species. This project has two main objectives:

  • Identify habitat corridors linking larger forests where GHLTs now live, to maximize genetic diversity and increase long-term survival of populations.
  • Work with local landowners and conservation organizations in Southern Bahia to develop management plans for GHLT populations, habitats and corridors.

The National Zoo's Becky Raboy, the project's principal nvestigator, Jon Ballou, Peter Leimgruber, are using satellite mapping, GIS, and population viability analysis to identify critical golden-headed lion tamarin habitats and populations. The project's partner organization in Brazil, Instituto de Estudos Socioambientais do Sul da Bahia (Institute for Social and Environmental Studies of Southern Bahia), has been essential to its development and execution.

The project is funded by the Lion Tamarins of Brazil Fund, the Conservation Endowment/Disney Fund of the American Association for Zoos and Aquarium, and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.