Ecological restoration of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil

Partner since 2017




Golden Lion Tamarins (GLTs) could once be found in all of the lowland Atlantic Forest of Rio de Janeiro State in Brazil. However, centuries of deforestation for timber and charcoal production, agriculture, cattle ranching, and now urban expansion, reduced the monkey’s forest habitat to 2% of its original area. Now, all remaining wild GLTs are to be found in the São João River Basin.
They live in small and isolated forest fragments surrounded by cattle pasture and housing developments. None is large enough to support a viable population of GLTs. Unless sufficient forest fragments are reconnected and protected very soon, the monkeys will succumb to inbreeding, disease and other environmental threats—and the species will become extinct in the wild.

World experts in small-population modelling and management stated that if 2,000 GLTs would be living in connected habitat this would be adequate to meet the conservation goals of 0% probability of species extinction and 98% retention of genetic diversity over a period of 100 years. Since its creation in 1992, Associação Mico-Leão Dourado (AMLD) has been coordinating efforts to reach these goals and thereby conserve the species in its Atlantic Forest habitat.

Hereto AMLD has joined forces with a variety of government agencies, NGOs, zoos, local communities and individuals to create an integrated approach to landscape management and nature conservation. Thanks to their dedicated and ongoing reforestation efforts the number of GLTs has increased from about 200 to about 3,200 (albeit in isolated forest fragments), the species’ conservation status was upgraded from ‘critically endangered’ to ‘endangered’, deforestation was stopped in the region and GLTs have become a nationally recognized icon for Atlantic Forest conservation. Last but not least, they have constructed the first innovative wildlife bridge across a highway in Brazil, to connect two areas for GLTs.

Working towards

Creating a biodiverse and vibrant habitat for the Golden Lion Tamarin – a crucial step towards the survival of this endangered species.


  • The purchase of 236-hectare of degraded Atlantic Forest in order to turn the area into a fully protected reserve;
  • Restoration and reforestation of the land and connecting it to the adjacent patch of forest – thereby creating a connected forest area of 10,000 hectares.

Canary in a coal mine

Ongoing reforestation efforts have recently resulted in the realization of the first innovative wildlife bridge in Brazil. A trip of forest, built as a corridor over the highway, serves as a road crossing for Golden Lion Tamarin.

– Golden Lion Tamarin in tree © Maarten de Coninck
– Planting trees © Maarten de Coninck
– Overview area © Maarten de Coninck
– Atlantic Forest © iStock
– Bridge © AMLD