The tamarin inhabits portions of the forest up to 500 meters above sea level, that is, the species only occurs in this restricted area of Brazilian territory. They use both forests with preserved, or primary, and secondary vegetation, where there has already been exploitation or selective cutting of trees. The presence of the last populations of golden lion tamarins is one of several reasons why the lowland Atlantic Forest is one of the priority areas for conservation.
Almost extinct in the 1970s when it was reduced to a population of just 200 individuals, the GLT today is the protagonist of a worldwide success story of biodiversity conservation, which since 1992 has been coordinated by the Associação Mico Leão Dourado (Golden Lion Tamarin Association).
Currently the speciesis classified as Endangered and has approximately 2,500 individuals in the wild, according to the latest survey. In addition to the tamarin, there are many other endangered species that only occur in this type of environment. The collared sloth ( Bradypus torquatus ) is an example.