Amazon Monkey Tales: Emperor Tamarins

September 09, 2013

International Expeditions' Amazon river cruises offer the perfect chance to catch a glimpse of the Emperor tamarin monkeys. These tiny primates were allegedly named for their resemblance to Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany as they have distinctive long, white mustaches. Some also have beards, while other are black-chinned.

Emperor tamarins stand eight to 10 inches tall and have tails a little longer than two feet. They can primarily be spotted around the Northern Amazon Basin in the tropical canopies and open woodlands of the jungles. Some monkeys act very human, but these little guys are much more animalistic, and their large, dewy eyes give them a puppy-like cuteness that may make you want to pick one up and cuddle it. However, emperor tamarins are very territorial. If you or any other perceived threat gets too close, they will sound the warning and shout out high-pitched calls that may not even be audible to humans. This alerts the other monkeys in the family.

Emperor tamarins stick together in groups of up to 15 family members and unrelated monkeys. They even bond with other tamarin species, such as the saddleback tamarin. Unlike the German emperor for whom they are named, emperor tamarins are matriarchal. The oldest female in the group is the leader, even if there are several males in the monkey tribe. When they aren't warding off predators, these tamarins spend their time feeding on fruits and other vegetation, insects and possibly bird eggs. They also take time to look after one another, as mutual grooming plays a major role when it comes to bonding and socializing. Emperor tamarins also exhibit unique behavior during mating season. The older members of the groups are responsible for bringing new life into the family. The two oldest males will pursue the oldest female and once she is pregnant, it will about five months before her offspring are born. Typically tamarins are born in pairs, but sometimes there can be a third baby. Much like how these monkeys groom each other, they also work together to raise the newborn babies.

Keep your eyes on the treetops during your Amazon cruise, as this is where the emperor tamarins prefer to spend their time. They use their tails to assist in swinging quickly through the branches and vines. They are fast though, so if you do get to see one, it might only be for a moment before it swings further away into the trees of the Amazon rainforest.


Photo courtesy: Enrique Castro-Mendívil / Prom Peru