Yellow Fever hits Golden Lion Tamarin population 

6 June 2018



Yellow Fever hits Golden Lion Tamarin population in Rio de Janeiro’s Atlantic Forest

Brazil’s Associação Mico-Leão-Dourado (AMLD; Golden Lion Tamarin Association), along with the Brazilian Ministry of Health and Ministry of the Environment reported that the first confirmed death of a Golden Lion Tamarin (GLT) to yellow fever occurred on 17 May 2018.  Until this report we did not know if GLTs were susceptible to the disease.  Our main concern is that this disease has the potential to reduce significantly an already small and fragmented GLT population. The continued existence of an assurance population of GLTs in captivity is an essential safeguard for species survival.

Yellow fever was unknown in our area during the four decades of our work. The current outbreak of yellow fever began in Minas Gerais state in December 2016, and quickly spread to Rio de Janeiro state.  The first human deaths in Rio de Janeiro state occurred in Casimiro de Abreu municipality, which is the center of the GLT geographic distribution.  In 2017, a few howler monkeys were reported to have died due to yellow fever in Macaé, Rio de Janeiro state, but we received no reports of affected GLTs.  By July 2017, human cases of the disease diminished as drier weather reduced mosquito numbers.  With the return of the rainy season in December 2017, the disease increased with a vengeance. The fact that winter has just started in the region is positive for the moment, due to the reduction in the number of mosquitos, but the disease cycle may continue for years.

In 2018, AMLD found dead howler monkeys in Casimiro de Abreu municipality, and three GLTs were reported killed by misinformed people who thought that nonhuman primates spread the disease.  In fact, monkeys sick with yellow fever serve as early warning of a potential human epidemic and can point health officials to priorities for vaccination of human populations.

Yellow fever is a virus that affects humans, nonhuman primates, and several species of mosquitoes. The disease is lethal in about 20-50% of infected persons and has resulted in the deaths of 331 people and an estimated 4,400 nonhuman primates in Brazil in recent months.

Yellow fever is not endemic to Brazil and thus Brazilian monkeys have not developed resistance to it.  Yellow fever is thought to have originated in Africa and first appeared in Brazil in 1685.  There is speculation that the disease and mosquito vector spread to Brazil as a result of the slave trade, which ended in Brazil in 1888. More information on yellow fever in Brazil is available here:

A safe and effective vaccine provides people with lifelong immunity against the disease.  Mass vaccination reduces human cases but cannot eliminate the disease because some female mosquitoes pass the virus on to their eggs.  A vaccine for nonhuman primates does not yet exist, but trials are underway.



In 2017 and 2018, AMLD and partners, including federal authorities, specialists in yellow fever, representatives from national and international zoos, and Brazilian health authorities developed a strategy and action plan to mitigate the threat of yellow fever to GLTs.  Components of the strategy include:

  • Continuous monitoring of the GLT metapopulation to detect threats including diseases such as yellow fever.
  • Collaborating with local health officials to ensure near 100% vaccination of people in the region. AMLD staff provided transportation to the local health department to deliver vaccine to people in rural areas far from urban centers.
  • Informing the local public how and why to get vaccinated.
  • Informing the local public that GLTs are victims of yellow fever and do not transmit the disease to humans. The objective is to avoid attacks on GLTs by misinformed local people.
  • Participating in a network exchanging current information on yellow fever, including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of the Environment (Brazilian Primate Center), State and Municipal Health Departments and Fiocruz (a public research institute).

Support GLTs in Brazil with the ZooFari Auction!

The National Zoo's 2018 ZooFari auction is live! Bidding closes at 9pm on May 17th. Proceeds from the following items, generously donated by supporters of SGLT, will go directly to Brazil to help support AMLD and tamarins in the wild. See links below and help support GLTs with your bid! 

Knitting Wrap and Scarf

A Day at the Spa, a framed rhino oil painting

Dinner with a Zookeeper at XYZ

Dinner with a GLT Scientist at XYZ

Three 1-hour personalized Pet Training Classes by an experience animal trainer!

ZOOKEEPER FOR A DAY! Shadow a zookeeper at the National Zoo and learn what goes on behind the scenes!

Amazing Animal Adaptations: Spines, Quills, and Armor! Behind the Scenes Experience at Small Mammal House


Did you know Naked Mole Rats can PAINT? See with your own eyes… and take the art home!

Paint with an Armadillo at the National Zoo's Small Mammal House!

SLOTH EXPERIENCE! Get up close and personal with a two-toed sloth at the National Zoo!

MEET A TAMANDUA! See these arboreal anteaters, and feed them their favorite treats!

Paint with Tenrecs, and take the art home!




Emu Meet-and-Greet

Painting experience... with tamanduas!

Painting made by National Zoo's Fennec Fox, Teddy

Painting made by National Zoo's Meerkats, Baya, Dogo, and Conga

Painting made by National Zoo's Tenrec

Painting made by National Zoo's Naked Mole Rats

Painting by the National Zoo's Skunk, Trixie

Painting by the National Zoo's Dwarf Mongooses

Painting by Tamanduas from the National Zoo

Painting by a Three-Banded Armadillo

Painting by a Screaming Hairy Armadillo, Dylan Walter

Nose Prints from a Sloth!

Painting by Coatis "Quinn" and "Ivy"

Elephants and Giraffe on Safari - a set of two paintings!

Adorable Red Panda Paper Mache Head

Handcrafted replica of Fijian Kinikini war-club.

2 FREE Overnights of Dog Boarding!


Thirteen Gold Monkeys - A Novel, personally signed by the author Dr. Benjamin Beck

APE – The Novel, personally signed by the author Dr. Benjamin Beck

Exclusive Golden Lion Tamarin Association Soccer Ball & Tshirts

Trees for Tamarins – and Our Planet

Four Night Stay at Sea Colony, Bethany Beach, Delaware





Land Purchase Gives GLTs a Chance to Survive

April 10, 2018 –The Brazilian organization Associação Mico-Leão-Dourado (AMLD) in partnership with the US organization SavingSpecies announced the purchase of a 586-acre property, known as the Igarapé Farm, in the center of the geographic distribution of golden lion tamarins (GLTs).  The purchase was made possible by a generous donation from DOB Ecology, a Dutch non-profit organization.

This purchase is strategic for the future of GLT conservation.   The property is located on the opposite side of BR101 Interstate Highway from Poço das Antas Biological Reserve, home to over 400 GLTs.  Recently widened to 4-lanes, the highway forms a barrier that GLTs and other terrestrial fauna can’t safely cross, permanently isolating the fauna in the Poço das Antas Reserve from the rest of the remaining forest.   The Brazilian Federal Government agency ICMBio (responsible for protected areas and endangered species) required the construction of a forested overpass as a condition for approval of the widening.  Construction of the overpass is expected to begin by the end of April.   AMLD has already planted a corridor connecting the Poço das Antas Reserve to the planned overpass on the south side of the highway.  When the forested overpass is constructed, and the entire 610 acres of cattle pasture on the newly acquired land are reforested, the GLTs marooned in the Reserve will be able to merge with descendants of zoo-born GLTs reintroduced in the 1990’s.  The resulting large and genetically healthy population will have a much greater chance of escaping extinction.

APF Plans for the construction of the forested overpass

AMLD plans to convert this property into a Permanent Private Conservation Reserve, thereby protecting its forest and GLTs in perpetuity.  The property will also serve as AMLD’s headquarters, where in addition to conducting conservation research and ecotours to GLTs in the forest, AMLD will host seminars, workshops, and events to engage the local community in restoration and protection of the forest throughout the GLT species range.

AMLD continues efforts to restore and connect an Atlantic Forest landscape that will save the Golden Lion Tamarin and hundreds of other species that exist only in this biodiversity hotspot from extinction, as well as improve well-being of the people of the region.  Join us in this effort.  Click here for how you can help.

From our partner, Saving Species: “The rainforest of coastal Brazil is one of the two concentrations of threatened species in the Americas,” states Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Chair of Conservation at Duke University and President of Saving Species.  “That’s because these regions have exceptional numbers of species with small geographical ranges and, tragically, exceptionally high rates of forest destruction.  Species with small geographical ranges like golden lion tamarins are the ones most at risk of extinction. (It’s easier to wipe out a species limited to a small area than one that ranges over a continent.)  Look at the satellite imagery and it’s easy to see the problem.  What little forest remains is in isolated patches.  And such places often have too few individuals of a species for them to be viable.  One such place is the Poço das Antas Biological Reserve.”


Track-A-Tamarin Continues to Grow in 2017

Started in 2015, our Track-A-Tamarin (TAT) campaign is aimed at raising dedicated funds for the Brazilian scientists in the field tracking tamarins, studying their movements, social structure, and use of habitat. This data is invaluable and helps form the basis of other important projects, like projecting current population numbers and creating bridges across highways to connect habitat. Associação Mico-Leão-Dourado (AMLD) requires a steady source of funds to supply the radio telemetry equipment to track the tamarins, and the generosity of our amazing supporters continues to make this critical work possible!

In 2017, we raised $4,043.30 thanks to our donors, especially:

  • The Greensboro AAZK Chapter, which hosted two events and raised $2,000!
  • The Georgia AAZK Chapter hosted their annual Brazilian Bingo and raised $900!
  • The Brandywine AAZK Chapter hosted another Tango for Tamarins and raised $500!
  • Woodbury Heights Elementary School in New Jersey fundraised $270 for GLT conservation while learning about them during a school project. 
  • And thanks to Holohil, the company who supplies our telemetry equipment, who generously donates $1000 per year!

In total, Track-A-Tamarin has raised $17,442.34 as of January, 2018! We invite you to help fundraise for TAT; take a look at some of the events held around the US to raise money for GLTs. You can also make a donation online and specify that it goes to the TAT fund. 


União - Expanding Protection for GLTs! 

In 2007, Brazil’s Associação Mico-Leão-Dourado (AMLD; “Golden Lion Tamarin Association”), with financial support from international NGO partners Saving Species and Save the Golden Lion Tamarin in the USA and the National Committee of the IUCN in the Netherlands, purchased 140 hectares (346 acres) of cattle pasture isolating União Biological Reserve, and its 164 GLTs, from forests to the west. União Reserve is one of only 13 small forest fragments containing GLTs—all located in a single watershed just 70km (43 miles) from the city of Rio de Janeiro. None of those forest fragments is large enough to sustain a viable GLT population. Thus, the need to reconnect them with planted forest corridors.

AMLD reforested the cattle pasture using native tree seedlings. As you can see in these satellite photos borrowed from Google Earth, nine years later the planted corridor is as tall as native forest. We documented use of the corridor by GLTs, mountain lions, and smaller carnivores—a good thing for ecological balance in the Reserve.

There is more good news. União Biological Reserve was created in 1998 as a result of pressure by AMLD and partner institutions. Since the Reserve’s creation, AMLD has lobbied to increase its size. In February 2017, AMLD’s Executive Secretary met in Brasilia with the President of ICMBio (Brazil’s environmental agency) and other officials concerning the opportunity to increase the size of União. On 5 June 2017, the President of Brazil signed a bill increasing União Reserve from 2,584 hectares to 7,756 hectares, including the 140 hectares purchased and reforested by AMLD—a huge step forward for GLT conservation. União Reserve now contains 408 GLTs and is the largest fragment of protected forest in the species’ range.

If Golden Lion Tamarins are to have a future in their Atlantic Forest home, it will be because partner organizations recognize that real conservation results require science-based plans and persistent long-term coordinated efforts of many partners. AMLD is implementing a science-based strategic plan designed to achieve a minimum viable population of golden lion tamarins by 2025, and to keep them safe from extinction thereafter. We have the knowhow and a talented and committed Brazilian team on the ground. We welcome your support.


Save the Golden Lion Tamarin, Associação Mico-Leão-Dourado, and Saving Species wish to thank the following whose support made the purchase of the corridor possible:

  • the Arnow Family,
  • Cassidy Horn, Cindy Horn, and the Environmental Media Association,
  • the Firedoll Foundation,
  • Robert O. and Reba B. Founier,
  • the IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands’ Land Purchase Programme, sponsored by the Netherlands Postcode Lottery.