Conserving Colombia’s Cotton-Top Tamarin – Federico Pardo (2011)

About the size of a squirrel, the cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) is a New World primate. It has a characteristic shock of white hair on it’s head. Males and females do not vary in size (not sexually dimorphic).

The cotton-top tamarin was declared endangered in 1973 following the exportation of 20,000-40,000 tamarins to the United States for use in biomedical research. Cotton-top tamarins were found to spontaneously develop colorectal cancer and for this reason served as an ideal model for the study of this disease. Those days are now in the past. The greatest threat to their survival is habitat loss and local pet trade in Colombia. Despite international laws the illegal trade of cotton-tops still continues throughout much of the world. The IUCN Primate Specialist Group classified cotton-top tamarins as Critically Endangered in 2008.

Founded by Dr. Anne Savage in 1985, Proyecto Tití is a multi-disciplinary in situ conservation program. The project combines research and outreach and aims to preserve the cotton-top tamarin in Colombia.

The field program began in Colosó in 1987 and in 1999 moved to Santa Catalina at Hacienda El Ceibal. The field staff is composed of local biologists and field assistants who are part of a non-profit organization Fundación Proyecto Tití. The project provides training in field biology and grass-roots conservation methods in the wider Latin America.

Proyecto Tití is working with local communities to create economic alternatives that help in the protection of Colombia’s habitats critical for cotton-top tamarin survival. These alternatives include hand made bags or “eco-mochillas” available for purchasing.

 

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