Black-faced lion tamarin (Leontopithecus caissara)

GenusLeontopithecus (1)
Weight540 – 710 g (2)

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

The black-faced lion tamarin has a golden-coloured back that contrasts with the black face, head, mane, chest, feet, forearms and tail (2) (4). Like all lion tamarins it has a long tail, silky fur and a mane of hair that frames the face (4). Claws are found at the end of the long fingers, except on the first digit of each toe, which has a flattened nail (2) (5).

This species was first discovered in 1990 on Superagui Island, off the south-eastern coast of Brazil. By 1995, it had also been recorded on nearby parts of the mainland in the states of Parana and Sao Paulo. In 1997, the population was estimated to measure fewer than 260 individuals (6), mainly located within Superagui National Park (7).

Inhabits the Atlantic primary lowland coastal forest of south-eastern Brazil (2) (5).

An arboreal species, the black-faced lion tamarin is active in the day and uses its long dextrous digits to forage for fruit, flowers, seeds, young leaves, nectar, insects, and small vertebrates such as reptiles and nestlings (2) (6). It typically lives in groups of two to seven individuals (2), and at night the whole group retires to tree holes to sleep (7). Births peak from September to March (5), and females usually give birth to twins (4). Some experts believe that the black-faced lion tamarin is actually a subspecies of the black lion tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysopygus) (4).

Habitat loss as a result of development, cultivation and the increase in tourism in the area, as well as the capture of live individuals, has posed a threat to the survival of the species (6).

The black-faced lion tamarin project aims to study the species and gather information on its ecology and behaviour (7). Findings will be used to inform conservation management programmes, and raise awareness of the species through environmental education in the local area. Captive breeding programmes could also help this species enormously, and are a priority for future conservation efforts (2). This tamarin is one of the world's 25 most endangered primates and is on the very brink of extinction. It will require long-term conservation efforts and protection if it is to survive.

For more information on the black-faced lion tamarin see:

Authenticated (17/12/05) by Matt Richardson, independent primatologist and writer.

  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2009)