Golden-headed lion tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysomelas)

golden headed lion tamarin

The golden-headed lion tamarins can be found in Life Among the Trees. They are in a mixed exhibit with white-faced saki monkeys and silvery marmosets.

Fast facts

Status Endangered

Size Head-body 22-26 cm, tail 33-39 cm

Weight Adult male 620 g; adult female 535 g

Gestation 125 days

Young 1 or 2

What do I eat?

Golden-headed lion tamarins eat a wide variety of food including fruits, flowers, nectar and tree gums, and animal prey such as arthropods, snails, frogs, lizards, small snakes and bird eggs. They usually forage for food 10 to 20 metres above the forest floor in the lower and middle canopy.

Where do I live?

This species is found in the Atlantic Forest in the east of Brazil and also in fragments of forest in the state of Bahia. They inhabit lowland rainforests, coastal, sandy-soil forests, and secondary forests, which are forests which have been disturbed. They are also found in cacao plantations which retain some native trees to shade the crop.


Golden-headed lion tamarins tend to live in groups of between 2 and 8 individuals, with only one female in each group breeding during a breeding season. The females usually give birth to one or 2 babies and only breed once a year. The young are carried by their mother for the first few weeks, after which other members of the group help. By 10 weeks of age, infants are only carried occasionally. The young weigh about 60 g when they are born. They double their weight within 7 weeks and by 16 weeks are half their adult weight.


These monkeys have a number of predators including harpy eagles, buzzards, white-tailed kites, tayra, margays and dogs.


The main threat to golden-headed lion tamarins is habitat loss. This is largely due to forests being destroyed to create palm oil and coconut plantations, as well as cattle ranches. There are several ways in which this species is being helped. It is listed on Appendix I of CITES, which means that it is illegal to trade in these animals or any of their parts. It is also listed on the Brazilian Official List of Species Threatened with Extinction and the regional threatened species list of the state of Minas Gerais. There are golden-headed lion tamarins present in several protected areas and reserves. In addition, there is a captive breeding programme which acts as a safety net, preserving the genetic variation of the species whilst numbers in the wild are decreasing.

Did you know?

Golden-headed lion tamarins have long fingers and hands so they can search for prey in tiny spaces.

These monkeys usually sleep in tree holes but may also use large bromeliads or knots of vegetation.

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