Why Are Golden Lion Tamarins Endangered?

golden-lion-tamarins-endangered Credit: Paul Oomen/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

The golden lion tamarin is declared as an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature because of drastic deforestation of its natural habitat. Due to rapidly-expanding agriculture, logging and industry, it is estimated that only 8 percent of Brazil's coastal rain forests remain. Of that, just 2 percent is suitable for the species to inhabit, with much of it fragmented into small areas.

Golden lion tamarins live among the sub-canopy of the forest in groups of two to eight individuals, known as "troops." While each troop defended a territory of 100 acres or more in the past, the size of that range has greatly diminished over the years as the habitat of the species has shrunk.

As of 2014, roughly 1,500 to 1,600 golden lion tamarins are left in the wild, and another 450 or so are found at zoos worldwide. The majority of wild golden lion tamarins inhabit a reserve of swampy forest near the Brazilian capital of Rio de Janeiro.

Though the population is not yet self-sustaining, conservation efforts through the Golden Lion Tamarin Conservation Program have increased the wild population from fewer than 200 individuals to a larger amount. As many as 50 percent of those found in the wild are released animals and their offspring.