Golden-headed Lion Tamarin
(scroll down for description)
1992, original lithograph, 8” x 5”
The golden-headed lion tamarin is part of the family tree of higher primates. These small, squirrel-sized New World monkeys belong to the Family Callitrichidae, which includes marmosets and tamarins. Lion tamarins are on the verge of extinction; they are one of the world's most endangered species of monkey. These tiny creatures are monogamous. They bond for life, and both parents share in rearing offspring. Twins are common, and the families live in large social groups.

Their range is restricted to a very limited area of the southern portion of Bahia state in Eastern Brazil. It is estimated that fewer than 1,000 lion tamarins remain in the wild. In a way, these precious little creatures are a flagship species, like the spotted owl. Their appeal to humans draws attention to an entire ecosystem. There are countless other species -- equally precious -- which live in and form the same habitat.

The Atlantic coastal tropical rainforest is one of the most endangered ecosystems in South America, partly because of the proximity to large urban centers such as Rio de Janiero. Already more than 95% of the rainforest along Brazil's east coast has been destroyed. Southern Bahia state is the cocoa-producing centre of Brazil, yielding perhaps 90% of the country's crop. Usually an area of rainforest is clearcut to prepare for cocoa planting -- destroying the habitat of hundreds of species of birds, animals, plants, insects and microscopic life.

Besides the lion tamarin population being decimated by widespread deforestation, until recently, these animals, highly prized in the pet trade, were being smuggled out of Brazil by the dozens to markets in Europe and the Far East. The Brazilian government reponded by creating the Una Federal Biological Reserve of approximately 5,300 hectares specifically for the conservation of lion tamarins. Intensive efforts to breed the tamarins in captivity for reintroduction to the wild are also in progress and proving successful. This plan is only effective, however, if there is remaining habitat for their eventual reintroduction.

The range of protected forest is still dangerously inadequate. Efforts are underway to raise the necessary funds to purchase the forest adjacent to the Una Reserve. With the added protected forest, the Reserve will be able to sustain a viable wild population of the golden-headed tamarin into the future -- along with the hundreds of other unique species of plants and animals.