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Emperor tamarin

Scientific Name: Saguinus imperator

Emperor tamarins are small New World monkeys, a term describing monkeys from South and Central America. Their name originates from their distinctive white moustache, which is said to have reminded explorers of the German emperor Wilhelm II. Their fur is mainly grey-yellow with a reddish tail and black hands and feet.

Emperor tamarins live high up in the canopy in groups of up to 15 individuals. They are a very social species and will happily live in association with other tamarin species. It is thought this aids in predator detection and food harvesting.

Only one female in the group breeds. She will mate with multiple males who fluidly enter and leave the group. She is likely to be the oldest female and the highest ranking. All members of the group assist with parental care. The males in particular take responsibility for the infants, washing them after birth and carrying them between feeds.

Emperor tamarins eat a diet of fruit, insects and tree sap, which they take from trees previously tapped by other animals. Their small size allows them to access food other larger monkeys cannot reach.

The main threat to emperor tamarins is habitat loss. Their previously remote habitat is being harvested for logging and cattle ranching as well as increasing the road system. Roads fragment the habitat and surrounding areas are slowly colonised by people. There may also be a threat from hunting for the pet trade.

Key Facts:

  • Conservation Status: Least Concern
  • Distribution: Bolivia, Brazil, Peru
  • Habitat: Tropical Forest
  • Diet: Fruit, Gum, Insects
  • Height: 23 – 25cm
  • Weight: 300 – 400g
  • Gestation: 140 days
  • No. of young: 1 -2
  • Life Span: 17 years


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