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Animal World: Our Co-inhabitants

The Resilient Golden Lion Tamarin-People

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Our scientific name – “Leontopithecus rosalia” – refers to two things: the hair that surrounds our face and its bright reddish-gold color. The brushed-back mane definitely enhances our appearance, and we can even make the hairs stand on end to make it look bigger if necessary. An adult golden lion tamarin-person can weigh between 500 and 700 grams, with a body that’s between 15 and 25 centimeters long. However, our fully extended tail adds another 32 to 40 centimeters to our total length. Our four paws resemble hands with long fingers, and instead of flat fingernails, we have sharp claws.

Golden lion tamarin-people are very family-oriented. A core group usually consists of a mating pair and up to six children. Larger troops mark the boundaries of their territory with scent and guard it from outsiders through patrols and vocalizations. In 2018, the government of Brazil made August 2 National Golden Lion Tamarin Day.

If you factor in other issues like hunting and fires, it is no surprise that by the early 1970s, our population in the wild was fewer than 300. Their actions led to the creation of Poço das Antas Biological Reserve, the first nature park of its kind in Brazil and a haven for us. And another beneficial tactic was pursued: expanding our habitat by planting trees and securing greenwood corridors between disjointed patches of forest. Altogether, the number of golden lion tamarin-people living in the wild reached a little over 3,700 by 2014.

At the end of 2016, there was an outbreak of yellow fever among humans in southeastern Brazil. The epidemic spread toward areas previously part of the Atlantic Forest, and by 2018 it reached us in our habitat. Oh, it was terrible! We lost a third of our population before scientists developed a vaccine to protect us. We could save a lot more trees if the vegan diet became the law of the land and no more animal-people were raised for food.

In addition to National Golden Lion Tamarin Day, the Brazilian government has given us two other honors. We were featured on a postage stamp in 2016, and we adorn the reverse side of 20-real banknotes.
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