Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Photo Essay

Home, Sweet Home

GLT in a nestboxIn the wild, golden lion tamarins (GLTs) sleep in tree holes but while free-ranging at the Zoo, the GLTs sleep in their nest box every night. It might seem a little funny to live in a picnic cooler hung in a tree, but it keeps the monkeys safe and warm. The nest box is equipped with a camera that lets people observe what they are doing while inside.

Here you can see Laranja peeking out of the nest box to have a look at her surroundings.

Tamarins are very territorial, which is what keeps the zoo’s free ranging tamarins—Laranja, Eduardo, Mara, Moe, and two babies—from straying too far. So long as they have the shelter of their nest box, food provided by Zoo staff, and insects and berries to find throughout their outdoor exhibit, they have no reason to leave.

babies on Laranja's backNew Arrivals

When tamarins have babies, they almost always have twins, and that is exactly what Laranja and Eduardo have had three times. In late May, shortly before they were released into the free range exhibit, Laranja gave birth to her third set of twins. (The first twins were born in March 2006 and are now old enough to leave the family group. The second set was born last November and is free-ranging this summer.)

For the first few months of their lives, GLT babies spend part of their time on the backs of their parents and older siblings. They will also grow more confident traveling in the trees by themselves.

Above are the two babies holding onto their mother’s back.

Hannah, the GLT internLunch Time!

Golden lion tamarins love to eat fruit and insects. Here at the Zoo, we give them all the fruit they need and, although they catch many "wild" insects, we provide some for them as well.

Here, the GLT intern, Hannah Koppelberger, is putting meal worms in a bromeliad so that the monkeys can forage for them.

We’ve Got Your Number

Moe on a treeFrom 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day of the week, FONZ volunteers keep watch on the monkeys to make sure they are safe and to record behavioral data for research. Every 15 minutes, they write down where the monkeys are and what they are doing. Numbers posted on the trees help them identify where the GLTs are as well as how high off the ground.

volunteer behavior watchers

Above, Moe is looking for any insects that might be hiding underneath the sign for tree four. At right, volunteers are writing down information about the monkeys’ behavior.

Eduardo wearing a radio collarMonkey Jewelry

What is that thing around the monkey’s neck? Eduardo, at left, is wearing a radio collar. All of the Zoo's free-ranging GLTs, except the babies, wear a radio collar so that volunteer watchers and staff can find them even when they are not visible. The same technology is used to track wild tamarins in Brazil.

babies playingMonkeying Around

Playing in the trees will help these babies develop climbing skills that they will use throughout their lives. They chase each other and jump from branch to branch learning the ropes of monkey movement.

Tamarins do not have prehensile tails, but they make up for it with long, narrow hands and special claws that give them a better grip as they climb.