The First Winner At Rio 2016 May Be A Red-Headed Monkey

Mico-leão-dourado [Golden Lion Tamarin]
Mico-leão-dourado [Golden Lion Tamarin]
Giuliana Miranda

RIO DE JANEIRO - Every Olympics needs a strong mascot.

But for the 2016 Summer Games, the two animals leading the pack are in a rather weak position. Each of the two primates being considered to become the face of Brazil's first-ever Olympics is in risk of extinction: the mico-leão-dourado (golden lion tamarin) and muriqui are the names of two natives species endemic to the Atlantic Forest, a long strip of tropical and subtropical forest covering virtually the entire Brazilian coast, north to south.

Up to now, mico-leão-dourado, a kind of pop-star within Brazilian fauna, is leading the preferences. It has become well-known thanks to 20 years of publicity that made its red mane famous around the world.

“This animal is the face of success. It has a beautiful story, of engaging with society. People from all the world come here just to see it," says Luís Paulo Ferraz, CEO at the NPO Associação do Mico-Leão-Dourado (Golden Lion Tamarin Association), which heads the campaign to save the little monkey. “Besides, mico-leão-dourado has the color of gold medal.”

Awareness efforts have increased a previous population of 200 animals to the current 1,700. Part of it is due to protection and the recovering Atlantic Forest.

Singing support

In the other corner is muriqui, the largest primate on the South American continent. It has a strong team of supporters, including popular singers like Gilberto Gil and Chico Buarque, who are featured in a slick new video made for the campaign, led by Instituto Ecoatlântica.

"Muriqui is like the panda in China,” declares Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservação Internacional and a specialist on primates.

Mittermeier and the NPO are helping to globalize the campaign for muriqui, which is supported by Rio's regional goverment as well.

"It has fewer chances because it is not a famous animal. Mico is also at risk, but muriqui is in much higher danger,” says Mittermeier. Estimates are that only 160 muriquis live in Rio de Janeiro state now.

In spite of the campaigns, other species may be chosen instead of the two primates. The tatu-bola, another species in serious danger of extinction, is in the running as well. Proposals for the official mascot will come from the 15 communication agencies invited by the Olympic committee to offer their ideas. Ultimately, the muriqui and mico-leão will have to win the hearts not only of conservationists, but also public relations experts.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
File:Parsin Gas and CNG Station in Karaj-Qazvin Freeway, Iran ...

Gas stations in many Iranian cities had trouble supplying fuel earlier in the week in what was a suspected cyberattack on the fuel distribution system. One Tehran daily on Thursday blamed Israel, which may have carried out similar acts in past years, to weaken Iran's hostile regime.

The incident reportedly disrupted the credit and debit card payments system this time, forcing users to pay cash and higher prices, the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported.

Though state officials didn't publicly accuse anyone specific, they did say perhaps this and other attacks had been planned for October, to "anger people" on the anniversary of the anti-government protests of 2019.

Khamenei, where's our gas?

Cheeky slogans were spotted Tuesday in different places in Iran, including electronic panels over motorways. One of them read "Khamenei, where's our gas?"

Iran International reported that Tehran-based news agency ISNA posted, then deleted, a report on drivers also seeing the message "cyberattack 64411" on screens at gas stations, purported to be the telephone number of the office of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

A member of parliament's National Security Committee, Vahid Jalalzadeh, said the attack had been planned months ahead, and had inflicted "grave losses," Iran International and domestic agencies reported Thursday. The conservative Tehran newspaper Kayhan named "America, the Zionist regime and their goons" as the "chief suspects" in the attack.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!