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Endangered golden lion tamarins come to Idaho Falls Zoo

The first pair of golden lion tamarins ever to live at the Idaho Falls Zoo will make their debut at the zoo on Friday, May 25.

Tam is a nine-year-old male who came from Utah’s Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, and Madison is a four-year-old female who came from Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend, IN.

“We are really excited to add these gorgeous animals to the Idaho Falls Zoo family,” says Zoo Director David Pennock.

Also known as the golden lion marmoset, it is the largest species of tamarin (a small monkey) weighing a little over one pound and about six to ten inches long with a tail an additional 12 to 15 inches in length. They aren’t related to lions but are named for the bright orange mane of fur surrounding the face. Like all tamarins, golden lions live exclusively in trees very rarely venturing to the ground.

In the early 1970s, there was as few as 200 golden lion tamarins left in the world, and they were classified as “critically endangered.”

Thanks to extensive conservation efforts including captive breeding, it is estimated there are now around 1,000 individuals, and their status has been upgraded to “endangered.”

They are found only in small, isolated areas of the rainforests along the Atlantic coast of Brazil, and only about 2% of their native habitat remains.

All golden lion tamarins are owned by Brazil. In North America, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) golden lion tamarin Species Survival Plan (SSP) manages the captive population on behalf of the Brazilian government. In order to obtain this species, Idaho Falls Zoo first had to complete a lengthy application which detailed staff’s experience working with similar primate species and sign a loan agreement with Brazil. After the application was approved, the SSP identified two genetically compatible golden lion tamarins at separate institutions to send to Idaho Falls to form a new breeding pair. Zoo officials hope this pair will reproduce and contribute to the long-term survival of golden lion tamarins.

Current zoo members with the Tautphaus Park Zoological Society are invited to a members-only sneak peek of the golden lion tamarins on Thursday, May 24 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. Only members will be admitted and must present a valid membership card and photo ID for entrance.

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