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The Golden lion tamarin Leontopithecus rosalia: a conservation success story

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Abstract

In 1960, the Golden lion tamarin Leontopithecus rosalia was almost extinct in the wild and the captive population, with poor reproduction and survival, was not well established. In the 1970s, after many improvements, the captive population began to grow and the Poço das Antas Biological Reserve was created to protect the species. In the 1980s, long-term research was begun on the demography and socio-ecology of the Golden lion tamarins, along with community environmental education and a reintroduction programme of captive-born animals (initially in the reserve, later in neighbouring private forests). About 30 zoos contributed the 146 captive-born reintroduced tamarins, and provided information on social behaviour, nutrition and health that was critical to developing reintroduction strategies. In 1994, threatened groups isolated in small fragments were rescued and translocated to a protected forest. Both programmes have been successful as measured by survival and reproduction after release, and both techniques have established growing populations. Although new threats (introduction of exotic primates) continue to challenge our efforts to preserve the species, there is no doubt of the success of almost 30 years of the Golden Lion Tamarin Conservation Programme.

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