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Finding forest for the endangered golden-headed lion tamarin

Brazil’s golden-headed lion tamarin is a small primate with a black body and a bright mane of gold and orange. Listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the golden-headed lion tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysomelas) survives in only a single protected reserve in the largely degraded Atlantic Forest in Brazil. Otherwise its habitat lies in unprotected patches and fragments threatened by urbanization and agricultural expansion. Currently, a natural gas pipeline is being built through prime tamarin habitat.

A new study in the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science sought to find forest patches large enough to contain sustainable populations of the golden-headed lion tamarin even under threats such as fire.

The endangered golden-headed lion tamarin. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Since the Atlantic Forest is largely gone—less than 7 percent of the original forest remains—researchers were only able to locate four forest patches large enough to sustain golden-headed lion tamarins under the most rigorous threats, including disease and fire. But only one patch was large enough to retain genetic diversity after a hundred years, if threats were moderate instead of severe two forest patches remain.

Unfortunately, the researchers expect deforestation to continue in the region. Shade-grown cocoa, a good habitat for golden-headed lion tamarins and many other species, is also threatened to be cleared for plantations given the low price of cocoa.

Citation: Zeigler, S. L., Fagan, W. F., DeFries, R. and Raboy, B. E.. 2010. Identifying Important Forest Patches for the Long-term Persistence of the Endangered Golden-Headed Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysomelas). Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 3 (1):63-77.

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