Who are those mysterious orange monkeys?
Hello everyone. My name is James, and I am one of the newest members of our Small Primate Team here at Zoo Atlanta. I came to the Big A from a facility in North Florida where I worked with a large array of bird species, lemurs, small tamarins, and mammals. I am over the moon to have the chance to work with so many different species, including drills, Angolan colobus, and sloths (which are not primates but which fall under the care of our department), but especially the golden lion tamarins (GLTs).
At the Zoo, we currently have six GLTs, but what is a GLT?
They are a small one to two-pound species of monkey that is endemic to a small coastal forest (Mata Atlântica) around 40 miles from Rio De Janeiro. They have striking orange fur with a lion-like mane, hence the name golden lion tamarin. They live in small groups of around six individuals with one reproductive female, one to two adults and up to three juveniles, and it is quite common for females to have twins. Being a cooperative species means the entire group helps raise the young. When they reach around 3 to 4 years old, they will leave the familial group in search of their own partner to form their own group and territory. GLTs have a wide range of vocalizations that they use to communicate with the group and other groups of their presence and surroundings. They can reach almost the same decibel of sound as a parrot can. GLTs have long fingers they use to forage for food, especially in between bark; rummage through bromeliads; collect nectar, etc. Unfortunately, the species is critically endangered due to so many reasons, from habitat destruction, fragmented habitat, the pet trade, and a yellow fever outbreak in 2017.
Zoo Atlanta has been involved in the conservation of golden lion tamarins for many years, and our Vice President of Collections and Conservation, Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD, has been heavily involved in the collaboration with Associação Mico-Leão Dourado (AMLD) or the Golden Lion Tamarin Association. She is currently the international studbook keeper for the species. In the late 1990s, Zoo Atlanta sent two groups of GLTs to Brazil to be released into the wild. Currently the organization is working to conserve forests in the region; connect fragmented GLT habitat; educate communities; provide vaccines to wild populations of GLTs against yellow fever which almost wiped out the species, which was already at risk; and so much more. Our history with golden lion tamarin conservation goes back very far, and we are committed to the future of the species for many years to come.
Golden lion tamarins are one of my favorite species, and I have been so lucky to work with eight different individuals throughout my time in the zoo field. They are one of the main reasons I decided to work with primates.
If you want to learn more about golden lion tamarins and ways you can help, visit: Save the Golden Lion Tamarin (savetheliontamarin.org)
On your next visit to the Zoo, make sure that you visit our GLT friends Eva, Harley, Blixx, and Tiete, who are housed in the lower part of the Zoo.
Keeper I, Primates