Golden-Headed Lion Tamarin Fact File

Leontopithecus chrysomelas








Wild 8 years

Captive 8 years



Fruits, Gum, Insects

Conservation Status



The golden-headed lion tamarin is a species of primate which is found in South America. They are restricted to the country of Brazil.

This species is an omnivore which feeds on a range of fruits, gum and insects.

Their name is derived from the mane of golden fur which sits around the hairless face. They may simply be known as the golden-headed tamarin.

Unfortunately golden-headed lion tamarins are threatened by habitat loss, inbreeding due to small populations and capture for the pet trade.

Read on to learn more about these magnificent mammals.


The golden-headed lion tamarin is named for the mane of golden fur which surrounds the mostly hairless face. The orange coloration is also present on the limbs. This contrasts with the black fur found across the rest of the body and tail.

Each individual is equipped with a claw-like nail on each toe except the big toe. The fingers are long, an adaptation which helps them with foraging for insects and other food.

Tamarins are one of the few primate groups which do not have an opposable thumb.

An average golden-headed lion tamarin has a body length of 20-34cm (8-13in) with the tail adding 32-40cm (12-15in) to this length. Their weight is between 500 and 700g (17 and 24.7oz).

Males and females are similar in size.


These animals are omnivores which feed primarily on fruit. Flowers, nectar and occasionally invertebrates are also consumed. They will also eat gum when available.

Food sharing plays an important role in maintaining their social structure.

They are able to find animal prey in the trees as amphibians will live in epiphytic tank bromeliads which are plants growing off a tree trunk and trap water in their crowns.

Golden-Headed Lion Tamarin


South America is the native home of the golden-headed lion tamarin. Here they are restricted to Brazil where they live in the Atlantic forest.

An introduced population was established in the State of Rio de Janeiro.


Golden-headed lion tamarins live in areas of rainforest. They have shown an ability to continue living in areas which have been turned in to cacao plantations which have retained trees to shade them.

At night they take shelter in a tree hole where they can sleep. The same hole is often used for multiple nights. These have an opening too small for most predators to enter and as such offers protection.

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Male and female golden-headed lion tamarins are considered to remain with one partner for life.

An infant is born after four months gestation. A single infant or twins is common with triplets recorded on rare occasions. Some females produce two litters each year.

Initially infants are carried on the backs of the mother. She will eventually share this role with other members of the group and by 10 weeks of age they are only carried periodically.

Often the male will carry the young and then return them to the mother to be fed.

Sexual maturity is reached at 1.5 years old for males and 2 years for females.


A range of vocalizations are produced by the golden-headed lion tamarin. These include long calls to reinforce bonds between pairs which are also used to signal that the territory belongs to that group. A whine is used when two individuals meet.

They are equipped with scent glands which are rubbed against items in their habitat.

A group of golden-headed lion tamarins will include five to seven animals typically made up of a mated pair and their offspring.

These primates have been observed to travel as part of mixed troops with Wied's black-tufted-ear-marmoset. The two species forage in different parts of the rainforest so do not view each other as a competitor.

Golden-headed lion tamarins are considered arboreal and spend much of their time in the trees.

Golden-Headed Lion Tamarin

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the golden-headed lion tamarin include birds of prey such as the harpy eagle and white-tailed kites, tayra, margays and wild dogs.

When threatened this species will fluff out its fur in an attempt to look larger than it is.

The population of the golden-headed lion tamarin is considered highly fragmented and continues to decrease. Recent estimates of the population place it at 2,500 mature individuals, a reduction from the estimate of 6,000 in the mid-1990s.

They are threatened by habitat loss due to conversion of land to cattle ranching. Cacao plantations can assist their survival as some trees are left to shade the cacao plants. Unfortunately the cocoa trade is declining and being replaced with alternative crops which are more destructive to the environment.

In some isolated populations inbreeding has caused an observable loss in genetic diversity.

Some illegal trade for pets occurs. National and International regulations have helped to reduce the illegal take of this species.

Quick facts

The golden-headed lion tamarin is one of the four species of lion tamarins. All four species come from Brazil.

They are also simply known as the golden-headed tamarin.

Golden-Headed Lion Tamarin

Photo Credits


Under License


Smithsonian's National Zoo. 2021. Golden-headed lion tamarin. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 27 August 2021].

Bristol Zoo. 2021. Golden headed lion tamarins | Bristol Zoo | Bristol Zoo. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 27 August 2021].

World Land Trust. 2021. Golden-headed Lion Tamarin: Species in World Land Trust reserves. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 27 August 2021].

Marwell Zoo. 2021. Marwell Zoo. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 27 August 2021].

Oliveira, L.C., Neves, L.G., Kierulff, M.C.M., Jerusalinsky, L., Mittermeier, R.A. & Rylands, A.B. 2021. Leontopithecus chrysomelas (amended version of 2020 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021: e.T40643A192327573. Downloaded on 27 August 2021. 2021. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 29 August 2021].

Lincoln Park Zoo. 2021. Golden-headed Lion Tamarin - Lincoln Park Zoo. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 29 August 2021].

Zoo, H., 2021. Golden-Headed Lion Tamarin, The Houston Zoo. [online] Houston Zoo. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 August 2021].

New England Primate Conservancy. 2021. Golden-headed lion tamarin. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 29 August 2021].

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