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  • Christian Wolff

Effect of landscape attributes on golden-headed lion tamarins



In late 2023, Teixeira et al. published an article on the effects of landscape features on the distribution of golden-headed lion tamarins. The article was published in the American Journal of Primatology and shows how important the preservation of traditional cabrucas is for the long-term survival of golden-headed lion tamarins.

The original range of golden-headed lion tamarins is now divided into two parts due to ongoing fragmentation and human modification. In the eastern part of the distribution area, cabrucas are the predominant type of landscape. This is also where 91% of the golden-headed lion tamarins have been recorded. In the western part of the original distribution area, 9% of the realized habitats were registered. These habitats are also highly isolated. Cattle farming and agriculture make this area unsuitable for golden-headed lion tamarins.



Distribution of the fragments surveyed using the playback technique throughout the study area. In blue - Fragment positive for the occurrence of L. chrysomelas. In black - Fragment negative for the occurrence of L. chrysomelas. Data collected between June 2018 and March 2022.

Despite its ability to survive in human-modified habitats such as secondary forests and cabrucas, golden-headed lion tamarins are very sensitive to habitat degradation. Three key elements of landscape change have been identified as the main causes of the decline in population numbers.


  • The continued fragmentation of habitats (reduction of functional connectivity). Golden-headed lion tamarins are quite capable of crossing habitat gaps, assuming gaps with a maximum width of 60-120m. This means that a gapless habitat does not necessarily have to exist in order to function as a habitat.

  • A reduction in the core size of the habitats - This leads to an increase in edge effects, which increases the mortality of old and thus large trees and has a negative effect on the availability of food resources for golden-headed lion tamarins. The minimum size of a core habitat is 5000m. Many native, often slow-growing tree species of the climax stage are necessary for golden-headed lion tamarins as food sources and provide sleeping sites. In cabrucas, these usually act as shade trees for the cocoa.

  • Forested areas such as secondary forests and cabrucas are being replaced as the main element of the landscape by agricultural and forestry uses. As a result, the available habitats for golden-headed lion tamarins are declining. In addition to cattle farming, these are mainly rubber, eucalyptus and coffee plantations. Although "forested", these areas are unsuitable habitats for golden-headed lion tamarins and many other native animal species as they are mostly monocultures that offer hardly any food resources and have a very low biodiversity.


The registration of a population of golden-headed lion tamarins in the mata de cipó, the transition from the Mata Atlântica to the Caatinga biome, is astonishing. This area is located very far west of all other actual habitats. This area is drier than all other habitats, typical food resources (fruit-bearing trees and bromeliads) as present in cabrucas and other forest fragments are severely limited here and could restrict long-term survival. It is unclear how large the population is and how long it has existed in this fragment. No golden-headed lion tamarins have been recorded here in previous surveys. At 860 m.a.s.l., the altitude of the habitat is also unique and raises the question of whether altitude is a limiting factor in the original distribution area. In view of ongoing habitat destruction due to anthropogenic activities, forest fragments and cabrucas at higher altitudes can serve as refuges and be considered as potential protected areas. The original distribution area covers altitudes up to 1100 m, which are rather unsuitable for agriculture and pasture farming. However, further research is required.


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