Easily recognizable for their distinctive long and drooping white mustache that sweep back from the muzzle on both sides, the Emperor Tamarin is a funny looking small monkey that lives primarily in Amazon lowland, the southwest Amazon Basin, the west Brazilian states of Acre and Amazonas, and in lower montane rain forests, seasonally flooded forests in southeast Peru, and northwest Bolivia.
Probably named for the resemblance of their mustache to that of Germany’s Emperor Wilhelm II, they spend most of their time in the trees in the lower or middle canopy above 32 feet (10 m) above the ground level.
Emperor Tamarin is a small animal that grows up 10 to 12 inches, has a long tail measuring 15-inches, and weighing approximately 500 grams. While their faces are dark, their bodies are predominantly covered with grey fur, with speckles of yellow, orange and white on their chests and bellies. Their hands and feet are black and the tail is reddish brown. They have canines and narrow hands with non-opposable thumbs, and claws on the toes and fingers, aside from its big toe which has a nail.
The Emperor Tamarins cling to tree branches using their claws maintaining a consistent verticality in the jungle environment. To make speedy movement in their typically lush habitat of the rainforests, they leap and move quickly through trees, rarely touching the forest floor.
Although the 95 percent diet of the Emperor Tamarin is comprised of carbohydrate-rich plants, they are omnivorous. In their daily dietary routine they consume a wide range of specimens that include fruits and flowers, nectar, tree saps and gums. However, they also eat insects like locusts, beetles, snails, crickets, butterflies, spiders, and ants. Apart from that, they steal eggs from bird’s nests or catch and eat small reptiles, like lizards and tree frogs.
Emperor Tamarin is a social animal and generally lives in extended family groups of two to twelve individuals. Each group is headed by the eldest female member in the group, followed by mature males. They are most active during the day and are playful when relaxing. Emperor Tamarin is a highly territorial animal and zealously defends its territory against the other groups. At the slightest sign of danger, it shrieks and shrills to warn others in the group.
Usually, Emperor Tamarin becomes sexually mature around 16 to 20 months. They are seasonal breeders, and most births occur during the wet season when food resources are in plenty. When a female is ready to mate, she emits some chemicals, which alert the males of her presence and sexual readiness. They have a polyandrous mating system, where one female mates with multiple males. After a gestation period of around 140 to 145 days, the female typically gives birth to two to three young ones.
Parental care and paternal investment are important to infant survival among the Emperor Tamarins, due to high rates of twinning or multiple births among them. The males are more likely to take parental responsibility because of the possibility that one of the infants to carry their genes onto the next generation.
Emperor Tamarins live for 10 to 20 years. However, the mortality rate of the infants in the wild is at its highest during weeks 5–15 of their lives, when they begin to move and slips from the canopy to the ground below. While the mother carries and feeds the babies for about 30 minutes every 2-3 hours, the males also carry and care for the infants. The infants are usually carried by the adults until they are 6-7 weeks old.