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Animal Data > Emperor Tamarin

(Saguinus imperator subgrisescens)

Status Distribution Sexually Mature
Not listed as threatened Rainforests of SW Brazil, SE Peru and NW Bolivia. 24 months
Number of Young Gestation Life Span
2 145 days 17 years

Emperor tamarins live in rainforests, secondary forests and forest edges, and are active during the day. At night they sleep in tree holes, or occasionally in vines or plants that grow on trees. They mostly eat fruit, but will occasionally take insects.

The male and the female are alike in both size and weight. They move by running along large branches or by short, quick, horizontal jumps between tree trunks and low shrubs. They use their long tails for balance.

The emperor tamarins live in extended family groups, sometimes joining up to form larger groups of 20 - 40 individuals. Much of their time is spent in social grooming. The females normally produce twins. The young tamarins use their hands and feet to cling tightly to the body of the mother or father. The males carry the young most of the time, handing them back to the mother every 2 - 3 hours for feeding.

The emperor tamarin makes several different sounds including trills, clucks, long calls and whines.

The wild population has declined due to habitat destruction, with forests being cleared for timber, agriculture, pasture and housing. In the past tamarin numbers were also reduced as they were captured for private collections, laboratories and as pets.

Main Features

The emperor tamarin has a long white moustache that extends to the shoulders when laid back.

The name emperor relates to this moustache. When the tamarins were first discovered at the beginning of the 20th century the moustache was thought to resemble that of a 19th century German emperor.

In Captivity

The emperor tamarins at Marwell are fed twice a day. In the morning they have a specially prepared tamarin cake, which provides most of the animal protein that they need. In the afternoon they are given a mixture of different fruits. They are occasionally given insects, usually mealworms or locusts. The mealworms are put in a tube. They drop out of the tube at irregular intervals and the tamarins have to search amongst the bushes to find them. This is done to ensure that the tamarins retain their natural behaviour patterns. Their enclosure has heated accommodation, and an outside area with lots of bushes and branches..

©2009 Marwell Wildlife