Golden Lion Tamarin Fact File


The body of the golden lion tamarin is covered in golden fur. Their face features bare skin which is black. This is framed by a mane of longer golden hairs.  The tail and the front paws are coloured brown or black. Their golden fur is believed to come from pigments in their food.

Their nails are unlike the rest of the primates including humans. They have tegulae which is a curved claw-like nail which allows them to cling to small branches.

From the head to the base of the tail they measure between 26 and 33cm (10.2-13in) long. The tail adds between 32 and 40cm (12.6 and 15.7in) to this length. Their weight ranges from 482 to 680g (17 and 24oz).


Golden lion tamarins are omnivores. They feed upon insects, spiders, snails, amphibians, nectar, small lizards, gum, birds and their eggs and fruit.

They forage for insects within leaf litter, logs, bark and a range of plants using their elongated hands and fingers. They prefer areas with plants which attract insects to help with this.  When fruit is in abundance this forms much of their diet. When it is dry, the fruit is not readily available and they supplement their diet with other foods.

Sharing food acts as a method of reinforcing bonds between golden lion tamarins.

Golden Lion Tamarin

Scientific Name

Leontopithecus rosalia

Conservation Status



482-680g (17-24oz)


26-33cm (10.2-13in)


Wild 15 years

Captive 30 years



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South America is the native home of the golden lion tamarin. Here they can be found in just a small portion of the Atlantic Coastal forest.


Here they make their home in the forests. They favour areas which include tree hollows where they can rest. Most of their time is spent in the canopy area which sits 10 to 30m (29 to 100ft) above ground.

Golden Lion Tamarin


Mating takes place from March to June at the end of the rainy season. This means that, following the four-and-a-half-month gestation, young are born during the next rainy season when fruit is in abundance.

Pairs are monogamous with both parents involved in raising the young. On a rare occasion a male may mate with both a mother and her daughter at the same time.  To initiate mating a male will approach the female and groom her more often than usual, flick his tongue and sniff her.

Males will put on weight before they breed which they begin to lose during the breeding season.

Other females in the group are suppressed from breeding by the dominant female. This means all the available nutrition is given to the dominant female’s young.

Twins are most common but on occasion triplets and quadruplets have been born. Following birth the young are fully furred and the eyes are already open.

They will cling to the back of their mother where they ride for the first few weeks. They continue drinking milk until they are 3 or 4 months old. It takes a year for them to reach adult size.

Once the young are fully grown they stay with their parents until they have raised their next infants. They provide support to the parents and in the process, gain valuable experience which helps them to raise their own young. Most of the time it is the older young and male carrying the current infants returning them to mum only to feed.

Infant mortality is high in the first year with roughly 50% of infants dying at this point.

Sexual maturity occurs between 15 and 20 months for females will males tending to mature later around the 30-month mark. Due to their cooperative nature, many will not breed till they are older.

Golden Lion Tamarin


Golden lion tamarins are active during the day. By night they find a tree hollow in which to shelter from the elements and predation. A decrease in sleeping sites has led to them using more exposed sites to rest leading to an increase in predation.

They form groups headed by a dominant male and female who are the only breeders. The other members of the group which may number up to 8 are normally the young of the breeding pair. To reinforce their bond, they will groom.

To communicate with others the golden lion tamarin scents mark and has a range of around 17 vocalisations. Visual tactics such as tongue flicking, tail thrashing and arch walking her to communicate as well. A whine is used to warn against predators.

Predators of the golden lion tamarin include hawks, cats and snakes. They were previously under intense pressure from capture for the pet trade. Current estimates still number them at just a few thousand individuals in the wild. This is an increase from a previous low of around 200.

Quick facts

Females have a milk richer in protein than that of other primates.

Photo Credits


By Jeroen Kransen (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


By Steve from washington, dc, usa (golden lion tamarin family) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


By Eric Kilby from Somerville, MA, USA (Golden Lion Tamarin) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Ruiz-Miranda, C.R., Jerusalinsky, L., Kierulff, C., Mittermeier, R.A., Oliveira, L., Pissinatti, A., Valença Montenegro, M. & de Oliveira, P. 2019. Leontopithecus rosalia. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T11506A17935211. Downloaded on 16 May 2020.

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