Elderly Golden-Headed Lion Tamarin Dies at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Keepers at the National Zoo’s Small Mammal House are mourning the loss of Zikki, a golden-headed lion tamarin who was humanely euthanized April 8. At 17 years old, Zikki was considered geriatric for her species; the median life expectancy for golden-headed lion tamarins is eight years in the wild. Animal care staff had been closely monitoring Zikki ever since she was diagnosed with chronic liver and renal disease a year ago. Veterinary exams over the past few months revealed that her condition continued to deteriorate despite treatment with antibiotics and liver protectants. At the last exam, staff determined that her quality of life had worsened and elected to humanely euthanize Zikki.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) brought Zikki to the National Zoo in 2003 to breed with Mattie, who died last year. Together, the pair contributed eight offspring to their species’ survival. According to her keepers, Zikki was a wonderful mom whose interactions with her exhibit mates and curiosity about enrichment made her entertaining to watch.

Golden-headed lion tamarins are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to habitat loss and fragmentation in their native Brazil. Approximately 80 golden-headed lion tamarins participate in the SSP, including Zikki and Mattie’s son, Amber, who lives at the Zoo and has been recommended to breed with a female named Valentine. In addition to Amber and Valentine, Zoo visitors can see two other golden-headed lion tamarins at the Small Mammal House.

# # #

Photo Credit: Clyde Nishimura, Smithsonian’s National Zoo