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Earth Expeditions

Brazil: Saving Golden Lion Tamarins

Join a world-class effort to save tamarins from the brink of extinction in Brazil’s most critically important forest.

Course Details
In Brazil: May 25 – June 3, 2020
Add 1-2 days travel time. Students arrive at least one day before the course begins.
On the Web: April – December
Credits: 7 graduate credits from Miami University;
Course can be applied to the Global Field Program
Course Cost: Field course (in-country + web): $2,750
(price includes tuition for 5 graduate credits and in-country costs) + airfare to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Fall project course (web, required): $600
(price includes tuition for 2 graduate credits)

Course Overview

Seeing a family of golden lion tamarins (Leontopithecus rosalia) in the mystical Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil is quite an experience. These diminutive orange primates, with their shaggy manes, intense stares, and bird-like vocalizations, live in only one small region of Brazil, where they face seemingly insurmountable odds. Habitat destruction (about 87% of the Atlantic Rainforest has been cleared) and severe forest fragmentation almost wiped them out. By 1969, fewer than 200 individuals remained in the wild, basically one catastrophe short of extinction. The details of their recovery and the continued fight for their future is, for now, one of the world’s most hopeful conservation stories.

While the wild population was declining, zoos carefully managed the captive population around the globe, ecologists studied habitat and population requirements, and educators worked with local schools and communities to increase knowledge of tamarins and their forest. Government and non-governmental organizations worked together to reintroduce golden lion tamarins to the wild and to begin a large-scale reforestation effort to increase the area and connectivity of tamarin habitat. Since 1969, the number of wild golden lion tamarins has increased nearly tenfold, and there is a much more credible path for their long-term survival. Golden lion tamarins went from a little-known and under-studied primate to a national symbol in Brazil, featured on a postage stamp and on the R$20 bill.

This course focuses on multi-faceted species conservation, including biological issues relevant to species reintroductions and translocations, management of wild and zoo-based populations, community-based habitat restoration, and participatory conservation education. We are particularly interested in the next generation of learning programs and public engagement campaigns through zoos and schools in Brazil, the U.S., and other countries. There may also be the opportunity to support the development of a golden lion tamarin park and educational facility in the heart of their range. We will examine the strengths and weaknesses of the “flagship species” approach so well represented by the golden lion tamarins and explore next steps.

We are delighted to be working with primary course partner Associação Mico-Leão Dourado (AMLD), a Brazilian non-profit organization that has played a central role in golden lion tamarin conservation. Associação Mico-Leão Dourado is supported in the U.S. by the non-profit organization Save the Golden Lion Tamarin. This course is also designed to strengthen relationships among zoos in Brazil, the U.S., and other countries.