Beloved Brazilian Monkey Clings To A Shrinking Forest
The tiny, copper-hued golden lion tamarin is so beloved in Brazil that its image graces the country’s 20-real bank note. But this lion-maned monkey is in peril.
There’s only one place on earth where the golden lion tamarin lives in the wild: in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, or Mata Atlantica, just north of Rio de Janeiro. Deforestation in the region has reduced the monkey’s habitat, once a massive ecosystem stretching for a half-million square miles, to just 2 percent of its original size.
By the 1970s, the total golden lion tamarin population in the wild had plummeted to just 200 individuals. Conservationists have brought the monkey back from the brink — barely. Through captive breeding programs in zoos, the tamarin population grew until biologists were able to release tamarins into the wild.
At first, the zoo tamarins didn’t know how to survive. Some were eaten by predators; some starved. But others managed to reproduce, and subsequent generations have thrived. Today, there are 1,700 of them living in patches of forest along the Atlantic Coast.
But that comeback may be short-lived. The monkeys need even more forest for their population to grow.
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