The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is celebrating the birth of two endangered golden lion tamarin infants. The monkeys were born June 29 to first-time parents Mo and Izzy and appear to be healthy. They have been clinging to their mother Izzy’s back since birth, but they will soon transfer to their father, Mo, who will carry them at all times except when they are nursing. At about 5 weeks old, the infants will begin to explore their habitat on their own and at 3 months old will wean. Golden lion tamarins are social animals, and the family will move around their exhibit as a group. Keepers are allowing the family group to bond. Veterinarians will perform exams, and determine the sex of the two infants when they are older.
There were once as few as 200 golden lion tamarins left in the wild, but through a number of conservation measures and breeding programs, like the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Golden Lion Tamarin Species Survival Plan (SSP), the wild population has now grown to 3,200. Izzy and Mo were recommended to breed by the Golden Lion Tamarin SSP, but currently no tamarins are being released to the wild.
About one-third of golden lion tamarins living in the wild are descendants of tamarins raised in human care—including tamarins born at the National Zoo. In the past, the Zoo prepared tamarins born on-site for reintroduction to the wild by allowing them to free-range throughout the grounds during the summer months. Reintroduction efforts have been successful, and the available habitat for golden lion tamarins now supports as many as it can hold. However, while the wild population is growing, golden lion tamarins continue to face threats including habitat loss and collection for the illegal pet trade.
Native to South America, golden lion tamarins are social primates which live in groups of two to eight family members in the canopies of Atlantic coastal forests of southeastern Brazil. Their reddish-gold fur and mane gives them a striking appearance. Golden lion tamarins have high infant mortality rates, with approximately half of infants dying before they reach 1 year old. Keepers will continue to monitor the infants closely to ensure that they are healthy and developing normally.
Visitors can view the entire golden lion tamarin family and the Zoo’s other pair of golden lion tamarins, Diogo and Julie, in the Small Mammal House every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Zoo will provide updates on the tamarins through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.