The species, which is endemic to Brazil, was the only primate that shifted into a lower threat category on the list.
This is a huge success story for WWF. Just 30 years ago, the golden lion tamarin was on the brink of extinction. In 1971, when WWF started working with its partners to protect the primate (it was WWF's first-ever project in Brazil), there were fewer than 200 left in the wild.
After tireless conservation work and 30 years later, the 1000th baby tamarin was born in the wild in March 2001. One-third of this population is the direct result of a WWF-supported programme to reintroduce zoo-born animals into the wild and to translocate isolated animals to bigger forest areas such as the Poco das Antas Biological Reserve.
Although WWF cannot claim to have achieved this result single-handedly (the programme has many partners), we have been a solid and reliable supporter of lion tamarin conservation, and WWF-UK has consistently funded this project for 6 years now. At present, WWF-UK provides about 60 per cent of the overall WWF network contribution to golden lion tamarin work.
However, despite the new classification by IUCN, the golden lion tamarin remains endangered. Studies have concluded that at least 2,000 animals living in the wild are necessary to ensure that the species survives into the future and avoids extinction, so we have another 1,000 to go! And it has taken us 30 years to get this far.
We have conducted studies that show that the habitat of the golden lion tamarin needs to be significantly increased, from nearly 17,000 to 25,000 hectares by 2025, for the primate population in Brazil's Atlantic Forest to double in size.
As there is little room for expansion of the wild population (because 93 per cent of the Atlantic Forest has been cleared), WWF and its partners are working on creating forest corridors to link up the tamarin's extremely fragmented habitat. Some of this forest restoration work is being supported through a grant from HSBC for freshwater consevation, as we are aiming to restore the vegetation in the upper reaches and along the margins of the Sao Joao River Basin, which coincides almost exactly with the original distribution of the golden lion tamarin.
WWF-UK has played a key role in increasing the likeliness that this species is saved from extinction. And the IUCN downlisting is a milestone in this process and proof that we are winning the battle against extinction. WWF-UK is working hard to achieve this but we still have a long way to go.
Conservation takes time, and to bring back species that are on the brink of extinction takes even longer.
The IUCN Red List is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plants and animals. It uses a set of criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies. These criteria are relevant to all species and all regions of the world. There are nine Categories of Threat in the IUCN Red List system: Extinct, Extinct in the Wild, Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, Near Threatened, Least Concern, Data Deficient, and Not Evaluated. A species is listed as threatened if it falls in the Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable categories.
Golden lion tamarin
To find out more visit the golden lion tamarin section of our online research centre.