Golden lion tamarins are small, orange monkeys that are found only in southeastern Brazil’s Atlantic coastal forest. Heavy development has reduced their habitat so severely that only 2% of this forest remains, and there are only about 1,500 golden lion tamarins left in the wild.
An additional 500 golden lion tamarins live in zoos worldwide, as part of the Golden Lion Tamarin Conservation Project. The goal of this species survival program is to maintain a healthy, genetically diverse population of this endangered species. Without the Golden Lion Tamarin Conservation Project, comprised of the Brazilian government, the National Aquarium and other zoos and organizations, inbreeding would soon lead to the extinction of the entire species.
The Aquarium recently welcomed two of these golden lion tamarins, named Belle and Davi, to our Upland Tropical Rain Forest exhibit.
Belle was born at the Denver Zoo in March 2008, and Davi was born at the Bergen County Zoo in New Jersey in March 2007. They arrived at the Aquarium this winter, and were gradually introduced to each other and their new home.
They initially spent time in a backup area with a divider separating them, so they could see each other but had their own spaces. Aquarium staff kept a close watch on the shy monkeys via a video camera, and our vets gave them thorough medical exams.
Eventually, they were allowed to be together with supervision, and it turned out that Belle and Davi get along beautifully!
After the quarantine period, the tamarins were moved to a “howdy cage” in the Rain Forest. The howdy cage helps them get familiarized with the new environment, while allowing them to feel safe and secure in their own space.
They are now able to leave the howdy cage and roam about the Rain Forest, but they consider the howdy cage their home and sleep there at night. There is always a volunteer or staff member supervising them when they are out and about. After all, monkeys have been known to get into mischief!
Rain Forest staff members provide a variety of enrichment items for the tamarins—puzzles like holey boxes or tubes with tasty fruit or insects inside. We change the enrichment items every day, because they are so good at figuring them out!
If you’re lucky enough to spot one of these cute creatures in the Rain Forest, the easiest way to identify the monkey is by the tail: Davi has a long tail, but Belle’s is very short. Davi is also a darker shade of orange, while Belle is blonder, and Belle is the more outgoing one, while Davi is quite timid.
To come see Belle and Davi, buy your tickets online at aqua.org!