Emperor Tamarin Fact File


Emperor tamarins are instantly recognizable due to the long white whiskers which hang down on either side of their mouth and resemble a mustache.

The rest of their body is colored with speckled brown colored fur. Their hands, feet and face are colored black. A white tuft of fur runs along the underside of their body.

On each foot they have claw like nails on all the toes except the big toe called tegulae. These help them to climb trees.

Their long tail is colored orange. This may measure between 39 and 42cm (15.4 and 16.5in) long.

The body of an emperor tamarin is 23-26cm (9-10.2in) long and their weight varies from 220-500g (7.8-17.6oz).


The emperor tamarin is an omnivore. They feed on fruits, berries, flowers, gum, sap and insects. Gum is primarily accessed from trees previously tapped by larger animals. On a rare occasion small animals such as lizards or birds may be eaten.

Due to their small size they can go out further on branches than most monkeys and thus access food sources which others have difficulty reaching.

Emperor Tamarin

Scientific Name

Saguinus imperator

Conservation Status

Least Concern


220-500g (7.8-17.6oz)


23-26cm (9-10.2in)


Wild 17 years



-- AD --


South America is the native home of the emperor tamarin. Here they can be found on the border of Bolivia, Brazil and Peru.


They make their home in lowland and montane rainforest, flooded forests and woodlands.

Emperor Tamarin


Young are born from September to March. Only one female in their group will breed at a time. The breeding female will be the oldest and highest ranking female. This female will have multiple partners at the same time.

The gestation period of the emperor tamarin is 140-145 days. At birth the infant weighs just 32g (1.2oz).

Twins are almost always born. Following the birth the males will clean the baby. The father will carry the infants at all times except when they are being fed.

For the first 6-7 weeks of their life they are carried on the back of an adult. Weaning occurs by 2-3 months old.

Sexual maturity is achieved around 1.5 years old.


Groups of emperor tamarins will often to co-habit with the saddleback tamarin (Saguinus fuscicollis). When they move together the two species will respond to alarm calls from one another. While this association is primarily seen with saddleback tamarins it has also been recorded with other species of tamarin.

They have a range of vocalizations and calls which are used to communicate. Facial expressions are also used.

An emperor tamarin group is made up of between 4 and 15 members. Groups will have a nesting site where they can rest together.

Emperor tamarins are active by day and will spend much of their time foraging for food.

Emperor Tamarin

Predators and Threats

Humans have affected the habitat of emperor tamarins through deforestation. They are also hunted in small numbers for the pet trade. The development of roads through their habitat has led to these becoming fragmented making it harder for emperor tamarins to move between groups.

Quick facts

Their name came from Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany (1888-1918) who had a similar shaped mustache to the emperor tamarin. Initially this name was given as a joke but it soon stuck.

Emperor tamarins are part of the new world monkey group from Central and South America.

Photo Gallery

Emperor Tamarin

Photo Credits

Under License


Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley

Eaton, T. 1999. "Saguinus imperator" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed August 13, 2020 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Saguinus_imperator/

Bicca-Marques, J., Calouro, A.M., Heymann, E. W., Mittermeier, R.A., Mollinedo, J., Ravetta, A., Rohe, F., Rylands, A.B. & Wallace, R. 2018. Saguinus imperator. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T39948A17931139. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T39948A17931139.en. Downloaded on 13 August 2020.

Twycross Zoo. 2020. Emperor Tamarin | Twycross Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://twycrosszoo.org/animals/emperor-tamarin/> [Accessed 14 August 2020].

New England Primate Conservancy. 2020. Emperor Tamarin. [online] Available at: <https://www.neprimateconservancy.org/emperor-tamarin.html> [Accessed 14 August 2020].

PerthZooWebsite. 2020. Emperor Tamarin. [online] Available at: <https://perthzoo.wa.gov.au/animal/emperor-tamarin> [Accessed 14 August 2020].

Adelaide Zoo. 2020. Emperor Tamarin Fact Sheet - Adelaide Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.adelaidezoo.com.au/animals/emperor-tamarin-2/> [Accessed 14 August 2020].

Smithsonian's National Zoo. 2020. Emperor Tamarin. [online] Available at: <https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/emperor-tamarin> [Accessed 14 August 2020].

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