Conservation of the Golden Lion Tamarin

Topics: Golden Lion Tamarin, Lion tamarin, Callitrichidae Pages: 6 (1965 words) Published: August 18, 2010
Conserving Golden Lion Tamarin
The Problem
The Golden Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia) also known as Golden Marmoset, is a small New World monkey of the family Callitrichidae. Native to the Atlantic coastal forests of Brazil, the Golden Lion Tamarin is an endangered species with an estimated wild population of "more than 1,000 individuals" and a captive population maintained at approximately 490 individuals.              

Most of the wild population is confined to the Poço das Antas Biological Reserve, a protected area of swampy forests in the state of Rio de Janeiro. It is an important bastion of the Golden Lion Tamarin, as only 2% of forests in the monkey's original range remains. Furthermore, its existing habitat has been broken up by logging and agriculture; this has led to isolated populations and inbreeding, a combination likely to result in extinction. WWF is currently working to increase the protected area of forest available to these animals, and zoos are reintroducing captive-bred tamarins to the wild. Deforestation in the state of Rio de Janeiro began in the 16th Century, with successive cycles of development supporting sugar cane plantations, coffee plantations, and in the last century particularly cattle breeding, besides persistent logging, charcoal production, and clearing for urbanization. The state is one of the most populous regions of Brazil, and today L. rosalia is limited to some few and isolated forest patches. Approximately 20% of the original range of L. rosalia is still forested, but 60% of this total is comprised of patches of 1,000 ha or less, 96% of which are less than 100 ha. The average size of the forest patches is 35 ha: smaller than the home range of a single lion tamarin group (Kierulff and Procópio de Oliveira 1996). Fires, set by cattle farmers adjacent to the remaining forest patches in the region, are a constant threat.                                                                            A Possible Solution

Captive breeding
There are now breeding populations of golden lion tamarins in zoos around the world. The Species Survival Plan (SSP) is coordinated by the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. Over 50 golden lion tamarins are born each year in captivity. The process involves breeding animals in human controlled environments with restricted settings, such as wildlife preserves, zoos and other conservation facilities; sometimes the process is construed to include release of individual organisms to the wild, when there is sufficient natural habitat to support new individuals or when the threat to the species in the wild is lessened. Another goal of captive breeding programs is to maintain an appropriate level of genetic diversity, which can allow the population be adaptable to conditions in the environment after release.  

The primary objective of captive breeding programs is to maintain demographically stable populations of sufficient size to preserve some high level of gene diversity (typically 90%) over a long time period (such as 100 years). The rationale for preserving high levels of gene diversity is twofold: to preserve the evolutionary potential of the population and to minimize the deleterious effects of inbreeding, which can be substantial .Achieving these objectives also serves to meet many of the other functions required of zoo populations (exhibitory, conservation education, research, and public outreach) although at times there obviously can be conflicts among these various roles. Establishing and managing a captive population can be typically conceptualized as occurring in 3 phases: the founding, growth, and maintenance phases (Figure 1).

Population growth may be slow during the founding phase as husbandry techniques are developed and refined. Once these become established, the population will often grow rapidly with an accompanied increased dispersal of the population among many...
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