Putting a transmitter onto a cotton-top tamarin isn’t easy. You need to win its trust first. So biologists at Proyecto Tití (PT) in Colombia are spending a few months acclimating cotton-tops to their presence, making it easier to capture a dominant male and place a small telemetry device onto his back. These devices attach like a backpack and are critical to understanding cotton-top biology, behaviors, and conservation needs, particularly which trees they feed from and which they must sleep on to stay safe from predators overnight. The habituation process occurs annually and ultimately enables PT to create a vivid picture of how cotton-tops live.
PT recently expanded their conservation efforts to the San Juan Nepomuceno region, where years of slash and burn agriculture left the forest in patches, forcing cotton-tops to live in isolated islands of trees amid impassable tributaries of low brush. As they never come to the ground or step beyond the forest borders, population numbers of these critically endangered monkeys are only healthy if there’s enough forest to live in. PT combats this problem by connecting these forest islands with private farming lands, literally building arboreal bridges to expand habitat for cotton-tops. Using information gathered from the transmitters over the past 25 years, PT can create the right kind of forest corridors that cotton-tops need to survive. Ironically, as human induced habitat loss is the biggest threat to cotton-top survival, the first step to protecting them is to gain their trust.