Geoffroy’s Tamarin, Saguinus geoffroyi

Geoffroy’s tamarin (Saguinus geoffroyi) is a small primate that is native to Colombia and Panama. Its other common names include the rufous-naped tamarin, the red-crested tamarin, and the Panamanian tamarin. It can be found in many different habitats including dry, moist, tropical, and secondary forests. In Panama, it occurs in the central and eastern regions, but is found less on the Atlantic coast. It can be found in Metropolitan Natural Park as well as an urban park with its Panama range. In Colombia, its range extends from the Pacific Coast, west of the Andes, to the Rio San Juan.

In 2001, Colin Groves classified the Callitrichidae monkeys, including Geoffroy’s tamrin, into the Cebidae family, which holds squirrel monkeys and capuchin monkeys. However, in 2009, Anthony Rylands and Russell Mittermeier reinstated the older Callitrichidae family as distinct. Geoffroy’s tamarin has no recognized subspecies.

Geoffroy’s tamarin is small, reaching an average body length of up to 9.4 inches and weight 17.1, although females typically way slightly more. The tail can reach a length between 12.4 and 15.2 inches. The fur on its dorsal parts is black and yellow, with a varying pattern, while the feet, legs, and chest are pale in color. The head bears a triangle of red fur, and it has a burnished red tail with a black tip.

As is typical to members of the Callitrichidae family, Geoffroy’s tamarin is arboreal and diurnal, spending most of its waking time during the day. It will descend to the ground only when needed, if certain types of food are not available in the trees. It will live in groups that can reach an average size between three and nine individuals, with each group consisting of both males and females. Both sexes will migrate between groups. These groups can travel up to 1.8 miles a day in search of food.

Although it is arboreal, it does not prefer to climb through trees, but rather swing, using thin branches to move about. It will typically use thicker branches only when ascending. These tamarins will communicate using both facial expressions and vocalizations. The vocalizations it is capable of making include trills, whistles, twitters, loud and soft notes, long screeches, and sneezes.

Geoffroy’s tamarin will avoid smaller monkeys that share its range, including the Panamanian night monkey and the white-headed capuchin. Its avoids the night monkey by chance, as it is active during the day and the night monkey is active during the night, but it will avoid the capuchin due to limited space. It is thought that in the case of squirrels within its range, Geoffroy’s tamarin is actually the one being avoided, as squirrels tend to stay away from large tamarins.  Although Geoffroy’s tamarin will avoid most birds of prey, it does not seem to mind when the double-toothed kite is near, most likely because the kite hunts small creatures disturbed by the tamarin’s movements.

Geoffroy’s tamarin is able to mate year round, but the typical birth season occurs between the months of April and June. Usually only one young is born, and if twins are born, one will often die a few months after birth. Young are born completely covered in fur and weigh an average of 1.4 to 1.8 ounces. The fur is nearly all black, and it is thought that this alleviates aggressive behaviors towards the young.

Both the mother and the father take responsibility for their young, with males tending to be more parental than females. It is thought that this occurs because only one female at a time is able to mate, and she will mate with many males during her estrous. At two to five weeks of age, the young tamarins are able to move about, and at four to seven weeks, they are able to eat solid food.  At eighteen weeks of age, the young tamarins are independent and at twenty-five weeks of age, they are fully weaned. The typical lifespan of Geoffroy’s tamarin is thirteen years.

The diet of Geoffroy’s tamarin consists of insects, fruits, green vegetation, and even tree sap, although only when it is easily accessible. This diet is similar to that of the tyrant flycatcher bird, and it is thought that the tamarins may follow the calls of these birds in order to find preferred food. These two species do not compete for food, because they are active at different times of the day.

Although Geoffroy’s tamarin is in no danger of extinction, it is thought to be threatened by habitat loss in some localized populations. In Panama, it is sometimes caught for the pet trade industry. Human actions can help these tamarins, however. By cutting down mature forests for agricultural purposes, more secondary forests, which are preferred habitats for these tamarins, are created. Currently, Geoffroy’s tamarin appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Least Concern”.

Image Caption: Geoffroy’s Tamarin at Bronx Zoo, New York. Credit: Stavenn/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)