RIO DE JANEIRO — Thieves have raided an ecological reserve in Brazil and made off with an entire family of one of the world's most endangered species, the rare golden lion tamarin, a wildlife official said Friday.
Whitson Jose da Costa, chief warden at the Poco das Antas wildlife reserve in Rio de Janeiro state, said the theft of the four tamarins threatens the future of an international project to save the animal from extinction.
"This is the fourth such theft in three years," he said by radio from the 13,500-acre reserve, an isolated outcrop of wild forest in an area otherwise cleared for cattle pasture.
Fewer than 1,000 golden lion tamarins, golden-colored, furry creatures that resemble small monkeys, are left in the world.
Poco das Antas has the only remaining wild colony, but its numbers have dwindled so low that interbreeding threatens the survival of the 250 native tamarins in the reserve.
A WorldWide Fund for Nature project to save the golden lion tamarin, set up in 1983, has brought 120 of the animals from the world's zoos to the reserve to try to improve the genetic base of the native tamarins.