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5 Fun Facts: Emperor Tamarins

Published February 27th, 2021 • ~4 minutes to read

Written by Joseph Keeler

This cute little monkey is the emperor tamarin! As you can see from the picture, its defining feature is its long, elegant white whiskers that resemble that of a human mustache.

Where Are Emperor Tamarins From?

Emperor tamarins are native to South America. They live predominantly in the lowland Amazon in southeastern Peru, northwestern Brazil, and northwestern Bolivia. They live in the highest canopy in the rainforest and are sometimes found living along the perimeter (edges) of the rainforest. 

Emperor tamarins are territorial but they share their habitat with the saddleback tamarins. The former tamarin lives in the highest canopy of the rainforest and the latter lives in the lower levels of the rainforest. Emperor tamarins sometimes drop food for their buddies below, and they both watch for threats and help each other escape predators.

It’s All in the ‘Stache

There are more than 30 species of tamarins that live in Central and South America, and most of them are roughly the same size as a squirrel. Most of the species received their names based on looks, like the golden lion tamarins, cotton-top tamarins, or the red-handed tamarins.

You’re probably thinking, how did the emperor tamarin inherit its name? The answer is, it's all in the mustache! They were given this name because their long white whiskers resemble that of Wilhelm II’s, the last Emperor of Germany, mustache!

Besides their fun mustache, emperor tamarins also have bright red-orange tails. It is a big contrast from the gray fur that covers most of their body. Not only is the color noticeable, but the length of their tail is also almost twice the size of their body!  

Lifestyle 

Emperor tamarins travel in groups, which can consist of two or up to 15 tamarins. They are also territorial. To announce their presence or define boundaries of their home ranges, emperor tamarins demonstrate their territorial behavior through vocalizations. These calls are core to their communication system. The cries vary and each helps them recognize friends or foes. 

Their diet includes fruit, flowers, nectar, gum, and small animals. Because they don’t weigh much, the tamarins can search for fruit and insects on the outermost tips of tree branches. They are super agile creatures, and with the help of their long tails, can easily leap from tree to tree catching their food or escaping from potential threats.

5 Fun facts about the emperor tamarin:

  1. Unlike most monkeys, the emperor tamarin actually has claws instead of nails on all of their toes except for their big toe. The big toe is known as the halluces. 

  1. They were named after Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany, because of the similarity between their long white whiskers and his mustache!

  1. Emperor tamarin tails can grow to be twice as long as their body length! An adult body is around 9-10 inches, whereas their tails can get up to almost 17 inches long!

  1. Females have trichromatic vision, like humans. They see all the primary colors, which enables them to find fruit easily. Males have dichromatic vision, meaning they can only see two colors: blue and green.

  1. An adult emperor tamarin weighs under 1 pound! Their size is a huge advantage in being able to escape from predators. They usually hide inside holes in the rainforest trees.

See Emperor Tamarins in Action!

Emperor tamarins are fascinating little creatures and are a lot of fun to see in action. There are zoos all across the country that house emperor tamarins. 

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and  Conservation Biology Institute received a pair of emperor tamarin brothers in December 2019.  Learn more about these brothers, their life at the zoo, and a fun questionnaire with their zookeeper!

At the beginning of 2021, the Vienna Zoo rang in some good news: a set of triplet emperor tamarin babies! Check out this link to see the furry babies in action!

My Connection to Emperor Tamarins

I love the emperor tamarin! It is such a fun creature, but also seems very regal with its long mustache. I’ve written a personalized children’s adventure book called Captain Pabbu and The Buried Treasure that features animals from across the world and raises awareness about endangered species.

In this adventure, you and your kids are taken on an adventure led by a red panda named Captain Pabbu, with the assistance of his first mate, Manny, an emperor tamarin. Here’s a picture of Manny.

Let me know who is your favorite animal/character from Captain Pabbu and The Buried Treasure!

Here’s to learning the story behind the emperor tamarin’s awesome mustache!

Cheers,

Joseph Keeler's handwritten signature
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Red Panda Books sells personalized children’s adventure books that encourage parents to read with their children and experience adventures together! A portion of the books’ proceeds will be donated to support the Red Panda Network and other organizations that protect endangered species and their habitats.

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