The Golden Lion Tamarin is rescued from the brink of extinction in┬аBrazilтАЩs rainforest by protecting what is left of its habitat.
Deep in the rainforest of BrazilтАЩs Atlantic coast, there is a sudden rustle in the canopy high above.┬аThere are flashes of orange in a golden blur against the dappled sky. They look like birds, but are┬аactually a family of the endangered Golden Lion Tamarin monkeys foraging on the tops of the┬аtrees.
Luis Paulo Ferraz peers through a pair of binoculars and identifies the family, he knows the┬аindividual juveniles and their parents by name. As the Executive Secretary of the Golden Lion┬аTamarin Association, it is his responsibility to protect this marmoset species which has been┬аrescued from the brink of extinction.
The frolicking Tamarins remind Ferraz, who spent three years in Nepal in the early 2000, of the red┬аpanda that are also canopy dwellers in the Langtang National Park. тАЬThere are similar challenges to┬аsaving them,тАЭ he says, тАЬif you want to save the flagship species you have to save its habitat and in
doing so you preserve a lot of other living things.тАЭ
The tiny squirrel-sized animals are endemic to southeastern Brazil, but only 5 per cent of the┬аAtlantic rainforest that used to be its habitat remains today. The species nearly became extinct, its┬аnumbers plummeting to less than 200 in the wild 30 years ago. Today, thanks to a model┬аconservation effort, they have rebounded to 1,700 but cling to shrinking forests north of Rio de┬аJaneiro. There are another 500 Tamarins in zoos around the world, and there is a program to┬аreintroduce some of them back into the wild in Brazil.
The threat to the blonde monkeys isnтАЩt as much from predators or poaching, but loss of habitat.┬аWhat remains of the rainforest is fragmented, and the animalтАЩs gene pool is shrinking. And while┬аthe Amazon gets all the attention and resources, funding to save the coastal jungles and the┬аpressure on land is a serious problem.
тАЬIf it is so difficult to fundraise for the Tamarin, imagine what it must be like to raise money to save┬аfrogs,тАЭ says Ferraz, who says the monkey is an umbrella species who protection will help protect┬аwhat is left of BrazilтАЩs Atlantic rainforest.
The Tamarins are now on BrazilтАЩs R$20 currency notes, and conservationists are lobbying to get the┬аmonkey nominated as the official mascot of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The Association needs to generate awareness so that it can raise money to build migration┬аcorridors for the animals to connect the fragmented Atlantic forest. A new highway now threatens┬аto cut the Poco des Antas Biodiversity Reserve in half, and there is a proposal to build forested┬аbridges above the road so the Tamarins can pass.
That is a stopgap measure, but the real good news may be Rio stateтАЩs decision to plant millions of┬аtrees and save more of the Atlantic rainforest and the TamarinтАЩs habitat.
Says Ferraz: тАЬIn Brazil, and Nepal, the challenges are the same: how to use the celebrity status of┬аthe flagship species to save enough of the habitat to protect the ecosystem and preserve┬аbiodiversity.тАЭ