Golden lion tamarins are native to the Atlantic coastal forest of Brazil. Historically, the forest used to span the entire coast. Today, only 7% remains due to severe habitat loss and fragmentation. Imagine getting in a car in Washington, D.C., and driving two hours away. You pass through the crowded city, then the sprawling suburbs until, eventually, you see more green spaces in between towns and farms in the countryside. The small, fragmented forest about two hours from Rio De Janeiro is where these endangered primates live.
In the early 1970s, less than 200 golden lion tamarins remained in the wild. Zoos united to breed and reintroduce hundreds of tamarins back to their native habitat. Today, 72% of the golden lion tamarins living in the wild today are the descendants of zoo-born animals. 72%! What would this population look like now if scientists and zoos had not collaborated to reintroduce these tamarins? They may have already gone extinct.
The golden lion tamarins you see in zoos today serve as an insurance population—in case the wild population was to dip again—and are ambassadors for their wild counterparts. Our hope is that visitors will fall in love with their charm and cute antics, learn more about golden lion tamarins and take meaningful steps to help us conserve this species.