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Emperor Tamarin

Saguinus imperator

Henry Vilas Zoo Emperor Tamarin

The emperor tamarin may have one of the most famous physical traits in the animal kingdom, the mustache. The long, white mustache can reach lengths down to the primate’s chest, with two strands on each side of its mouth. This species of tamarin is also lightweight with mainly grey bodies and a copper colored tail. They are very graceful and friendly creatures, often laying on their backs in hopes of a good stomach petting.

Habitat: They are found in the tree canopies of the tropical rainforests in Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia. Even though they spend most of their time in trees, they usually stay below 80 – 95 feet (24 – 29 m) in elevation.

Diet: Their food sources include fruits, flowers, nectar, frogs, snails, insects, and tree sap.

Family Life: Emperor tamarins are active during the day and are very friendly, social primates. This species has been observed coexisting with other tamarin species. This relationship with nearby tamarins provides several protective benefits, as the different species will warn each other when predators are near. They typically live in social groups of around 2 to 15 individuals. Groups usually contain two sexually mature males, with the oldest female having the highest rank in the group.

Henry Vilas Zoo Emperor Tamarin

The emperor tamarin’s endangered status is in the least concern category.

Henry Vilas Zoo Least Concern Graphic
Henry Vilas Zoo Emperor Tamarin
  • The emperor tamarin is considered endangered in Brazil and Peru, but the threat level in other countries is relatively stable. Deforestation and habitat destruction are the major threats this species faces, mainly due to road construction and urbanization.
  • In some areas, they are captured and traded in the illegal pet trade.
Henry Vilas Zoo Emperor Tamarin
Fun Facts
  • The emperor tamarin was named after Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany due to their fabulous ‘mustaches’!
  • Swiss zoologist Goeldi named the species “emperor” as a joke, but the name stuck and was soon given the Latin name of “Saguinas imperator”.
  • The emperor tamarin has an impressive set of claws on all of its fingers and toes – this is a physical adaptation that happened over time and is not inherent to their species.
Henry Vilas Zoo Emperor Tamarin
Quick Facts

CLASS: Mammalia (mammals)
ORDER: Primates (primates)
FAMILY: Cebidae (marmosets, tamarins, etc.)
GENUS: Saguinus (tamarins)
SPECIES: Saguinus imperator (emperor tamarin)
LIFE SPAN: 10 – 20 years (wild) / 13 – 20 years (zoo)
SIZE: Up to 10.5 inches (27 cm)
WEIGHT: 0.7 – 0.8 pounds (315 – 410 g)
TAIL LENGTH: 14 – 16 inches (35 – 40 cm)

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