Discovery of Lion-Headed Monkey Could Aid Conservation Efforts
Jun. 21, 1990
Undated (AP) _ A new species of monkey with a lion's head and a striking gold and black coat has been discovered in an unlikely place - a highly urbanized part of Brazil, scientists say.
The black-faced lion tamarin, as the new monkey is called, is a golden squirrel-sized monkey with black face, forearms and tail, and a big, bushy mane. It was discovered this spring, researchers said Wednesday.
''It's quite remarkable, because it's almost like finding something in the suburbs of Los Angeles,'' said Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservation International in Washington.
It is only the fourth species of lion tamarin known. It will be the highlight of a meeting on lion tamarins to be held in Brazil beginning today.
The discovery of the monkey ''complicates conservationists' jobs because we have to be concerned with another species in another habitat,'' said Charles Snowdon, a zoologist and psychologist at the University of Wisconsin.
On the other hand, he said, ''It may be important for getting better ideas about how to conserve all species of lion tamarins.''
The new lion tamarin was found by two biology students who had just taken their first jobs as professors, Lucia Lorini and Vanessa Guerra Persson. They were collaborating with Dante Martins Teixera of the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro.
The discovery ''is biologically important and an important conservation challenge as well,'' said Benjamin Beck, associate director of the National Zoo in Washington. Further studies of the animals' habitat and their relation to other lion tamarins should be conducted soon, he said.
When Mittermeier learned of the discovery, he immediately committed $30,000 toward such studies and toward protection of this highly endangered new species.
The black-faced lion taarin was discovered on the island of Superagui, south of the city of Sao Paulo, in the Brazilian state of Parana. Parana is one of Brazil's most developed areas, with only 3 percent of its original forest cover remaining, Mittermeier said.
Part of the island is a national park, Mittermeier said, but the black- faced lion tamarin was found only in another part of the island, he said.
Preliminary surveys suggest that only a few dozen of the black-faced lion tamarins have survived, Mittermeier said.
Three other species of lion tamarins are known, the most famous of them the golden-lion tamarin, which has been bred in captivity at the National Zoo and elsewhere around the world. It has been reintroduced into a reserve in Brazil.
All are members of the genus Leontopithecus. The new lion tamarin was named Leontopithecus caissara after the coastal fishermen, or caicaras, who live and work on the island where it was found.
All of the lion tamarins are endangered, primarily because the coastal Atlantic forest of Brazil, their sole habitat, has nearly disappeared under the crush of a burgeoning human population.
Researchers must find out exactly how many black-faced lion tamarins remain, exactly where and how they live, what they eat and what other animals live in the same places, Beck said.