The wild population has declined due to habitat destruction, with forests being cleared for timber, agriculture, pasture and housing. In the past tamarin numbers were also reduced as they were captured for private collections, laboratories and as pets.
Gestation is 140-145 days and females typically give birth to twins. All males—not just the fathers care and support the young, carrying them and bringing them to the mother to nurse.
Only one female in the group breeds. She will mate with multiple males who fluidly enter and leave the group. She is likely to be the oldest female and the highest ranking. All members of the group assist with parental care. The males in particular take responsibility for the infants, washing them after birth and carrying them between feeds.
Emperor Tamarins tend to form mixed-species groups with the smaller, sympatric saddleback tamarins: <i>Saguinus fuscicollis</i>. The Emperor Tamarins travel higher in the forest, spending more time in the lower and middle canopy, above 10 m, whereas the saddlebacks spend more time foraging and travalleing at 10 m or lower.
The Emperor Tamarin is found in various forms of light, dry-bottom to densely grown Amazonian tropical forest regions. Their territories are between 75-100 acres and also span open woodlands and secondary growth. This species is arboreal, spending most of its time in trees, usually below 80-95 feet elevation. They can be found in tropical forest in southeast Peru, northwest Bolivia, and northwest Brazil and several river drainages in Peru, including the Acre, Purus, and Jurua have populations of this species
Emperor tamarins eat a diet of fruit, insects and tree sap, which they take from trees previously tapped by other animals. Their small size allows them to access food other larger monkeys cannot reach.
Like most tamarins, this species has claws on all of its fingers and toes except the great toe, which has a nail. Emperor tamarins are active by day and are very graceful, friendly, and playful monkeys. They are “leapers” in their motor behavior and move through trees with rather quick, jerky movements.
The emperor tamarin is grey on the body and silvery-brown to black on the crown, with a dull gold or reddish-orange tail. It is typically white on the underparts. The male and female are very similar in appearance, while juvenile emperor tamarins are considerably smaller than the adults and possess shorter moustaches.
Emperor tamarins are approximately 9.2-10.4 inches in body length with a tail length of 14-16.6 inches. They are relatively light weight, reaching only between 10.7-14.2 oz at full size.
Arguably the most charismatic of the tamarins, the emperor tamarin (<i>Saguinus imperator</i>) is a small primate named for its characteristic long white moustache, which is thought to bear a resemblance to the moustache of Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany. The distinctive moustache of the emperor tamarin forms the basis of identification for the two recognised subspecies: the bearded emperor tamarin (<i>Saguinus imperator subgrisescens</i>), which has a full white beard, and the black-chinned emperor tamarin (<i>Saguinus imperator imperator</i>), in which the white hair below the mouth is absent.