Black Lion Tamarin

Black Lion Tamarin

Golden-rumped lion tamarin, Black lion tamarin, Golden-rumped lion tamarin

4 languages
Leontopithecus chrysopygus
Population size
Life Span
10-28 yrs
590-640 g
20-33.5 cm

The black lion tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysopygus ), also known as the golden-rumped lion tamarin, is a lion tamarin endemic to the Brazilian state of São Paulo, almost exclusively at the Morro do Diabo State Park. Its limited geographical range makes it the rarest of the New World monkeys, with little known about it. It was thought to be extinct for 65 years until its rediscovery in 1970.In 2016 an adult couple was found to the east, in the Caetetus Ecological Station, after six years with no sightings.

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A 2020 assessment by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimated that there was 1,600 individuals living in the wild, 1,200 of which are found in Morro do Diablo State Park. They are usually found in groups of 4 to 9, living in the secondary and primary forests along the circumference of its home range.

On average, the black lion tamarin weighs 300–700 grams (11–25 oz).

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Dominance hierarchy


Not a migrant


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The squirrel-sized Black lion tamarin (otherwise called the Golden-rumped lion tamarin) is closely related to the Golden lion tamarin. Like the latter, this animal possesses considerably long digits, helping it to catch small insects. The squirrel-sized Black lion tamarins are currently among the most endangered mammals around the globe. This species exhibits glossy black fur with reddish-golden patches on its rump, thighs and base of the tail. The face is surrounded by a long, black colored mane.



Biogeographical realms

The original range of this species used to cover central and western parts of the state of São Paulo (Brazil). Currently, the Black lion tamarins occur in two isolated areas: Morro do Diabo State Forest Reserve in southwestern São Paulo, occupying a territory of 375 sq. km.; and the small Caetetus Reserve in central São Paulo, covering 23 sq. km. Preferred types of habitat for these animals are lowland semi-deciduous forest as well as macega forest, usually dominated by small bush-like trees.

Black Lion Tamarin habitat map

Climate zones

Black Lion Tamarin habitat map
Black Lion Tamarin
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Habits and Lifestyle

As diurnal animals, the Black lion tamarins are active during the daytime hours. They are highly social creatures, forming family units, composed of an adult pair and their offspring from the last 2 - 3 years. The male and the female usually share dominance in these social units, defending their territory from intruders and even fighting them off when necessary. Members of the family groups spend all their time together. Becoming reproductively mature, young males disperse to find mates. Occasionally, numerous groups gather to form large aggregations, where newly matured individuals can find mates. During such gatherings, adult males and females keep distance to avoid conflicts.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

The Black lion tamarins are omnivores. The usual diet of these animals primarily consists of insects and fruits, supplemented with small lizards, small vertebrates, small birds as well as eggs of birds (when they are able to catch these types of food).

Mating Habits

spring-autumn, in Brazil: between August and March
125-132 days
2-4 infants
16 - 24 mont

The Black lion tamarins have a monogamous mating system, where one male mates with one female exclusively. However, populations in some areas exhibit polyandry. When a group contains more than one mature male, the female often mates with multiple males to hide paternity of her offspring. Breeding and births usually occur from spring to autumn. Meanwhile, populations in Brazil mate and breed between August and March. Duration of pregnancy is unknown, although females of other related lion tamarins usually undergo 125 - 132 days of gestation. Females can yield up to 3 - 4 young per litter, although twins are most common. The newborn babies live mainly with their mother until 2 - 3 weeks old, when the father begins to care for them. He will remain with his offspring during most of the day, carrying them to their mother every 2 - 3 hours to feed. Weaning occurs after 2 - 3 months old. However, young lion tamarins continue living with their natal group until 16 - 24 months old, when they are mature.


Population threats

The Black lion tamarins are primarily threatened by habitat loss: this species has lost more than 90% of its Atlantic forest habitat in Brazil due to factors such as logging, development and cultivation. On the other hand, these animals exhibit a high rate of interbreeding and a very low genetic diversity because of living in isolated populations for a long period of time. Hence, they currently face inbreeding depression, which negatively affects the health of these populations. As a result, some populations are unable to grow, survive and successfully reproduce. Other notable concerns to this species’ population include fires and hunting.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population of Black lion tamarins is estimated at about 1,000 mature individuals, spread through 11 isolated forests, including 820 animals in the Morro do Diabo State Park, about 40 individuals in the Caetetus Reserve and 114 individuals in remaining 9 localities. Overall, Black lion tamarins’ numbers are decreasing today, and the animals are classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List.

Ecological niche

Their diet allows Black lion tamarins to act as key seed dispersers of some plant species, thus benefiting the ecosystem of their range.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Members of a group usually announce of their presence to outsiders by various vocalizations as well as scent marking. When defending the home range of their group, the Black lion tamarins occasionally come into conflicts with intruders, during which their hairs rise on the end. Other common vocalizations include shrills and bird-like noises. Additionally, these animals communicate through a few facial expressions.
  • These diurnal animals sleep during the nighttime hours. The sleeping sites of Black lion tamarins are typically tree holes.
  • In Brazil, these animals are often captured to be sold as pets. These charming animals are currently a popular species in ecotourism activities.
  • Newborn lion tamarins cannot feed themselves independently for the first few months of their lives. Hence, they ride on the back of their parents, who provide them with food.
  • When a young lion tamarin is weaned, the parents as well as other members of its natal group will share their food with the baby. During this period, the infant will beg for food if not offered to take it.


1. Black Lion Tamarin Wikipedia article -
2. Black Lion Tamarin on The IUCN Red List site -

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