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Frequently Asked Questions

Why were these animals loose?

Laranja, Eduardo, and their offspring helped to educate the public about conservation by living in a recreation of a site where tamarins are reintroduced in Brazil. Zoo visitors could see how tamarins might behave in the wild, and get a sense of what reintroduction sites are like.

Why didn't they run away?

The tamarins stayed within the range of the Zoo grounds because they had everything they needed right here: plenty of food and water, a familiar nest box, and each other.

What if they ran away?

They typically don't usually go far from their nest box. But if they did wander off, we could always find them. Around their necks were collars with miniature radio transmitters. We have special radio receivers that allow us to find each monkey by listening for the beep... beep... beep of its radio transmitter.

Did they stay out at night?

The free-ranging tamarins were out all day and all night. They returned to their nest box each evening. They slept in their nest box from about sundown until sunup.

Are they out all year long?

No. Golden lion tamarins (GLTs) are from a tropical climate, although it can get cool at times in their native habitat. In the Zoo's free-range program, GLTs are released in the Zoo in late spring and remain in this free-ranging exhibit for several months.

What do they eat?

Their diet includes: canned marmoset diet, bananas, apples, oranges, carrots, green beans, hard-boiled eggs, meal worms, and crickets. They also catch local insects.

When are they fed?

They are fed at least twice a day. The first meal is in the morning and the other is in the early afternoon. Some food is left for them in feeders, and some is hidden in plants and crevices to encourage them to forage.

What kind of nest do they make?

In the wild, tamarins sleep in hollow trees. Here at the Zoo we provide them with a specially modified picnic cooler. It is warm, dry, and predator proof.

How much do they weigh?

GLTs are small monkeys, weighing around 17 to 21 ounces (500 to 700 grams).

Where do they come from?

GLTs are native to the Atlantic coastal forests of Brazil. Less than two percent of the original forest remains. What does remain has been fragmented into small, unconnected areas. Each area can support only a small number of tamarin groups.

How many are left in the wild?

GLTs are endangered. About 630 remain in the wild and another 550 live in the wild as a result of reintroduction. About 450 live in zoos. Without the intervention of the Golden Lion Tamarin Conservation Program, inbreeding would lead to the local extinction of many of these small populations of tamarins, and eventually the entire species.

Are there other kinds of lion tamarins?

Yes, there are three other species of lion tamarins: golden-headed lion tamarins, black lion tamarins, and black-faced lion tamarins. They all live in the tropical forest of eastern and southeastern Brazil, and all are endangered. Learn more.

Can I touch the Zoo's tamarins

We hope everyone who come to the National Zoo saw the free-ranging tamarins, but they must learn to fend for themselves and not interact with Zoo visitors. They are wild animals, and it is not safe for you or them to have direct contact with each other. They were given plenty of tamarin food; human food may be harmful to them.