The tiny cotton-top, which weighs less than a pound, is named for the shock of white hair that sits atop its head. The monkeys, nicknamed the cutest in South America, entertain researchers with their endless antics.
However, cotton-top tamarins are among the most endangered primates in the world. They are found only in northwestern Colombia, and their tropical forest habitat is being destroyed for roads, agriculture, food and housing. Cotton-tops are also captured and illegally sold as pets.
Many Colombians who live near the cotton-tops’ forest home do not know that these monkeys – known locally as “titís” – are endangered. Proyecto Tití (PT) aims to change this by providing information about the cotton-top alongside employment opportunities that enable locals to protect the forest and its monkeys.
"All of the deforestation that has been going on in Colombia for the last few decades has made the cotton-tops and the dry tropical forest of northern Colombia critically endangered."
- Rosamira Guillen
A Unique Conservation Approach
In order to reduce local families’ dependence on forest-product income, Proyecto Tití helps community members find other ways to make a living. PT sponsored the development of “eco-mochilas,” eco-friendly totes made from discarded plastic bags. Women craft the colorful eco-mochilas and through this business provide for their community and families.
The CARTITILLA program taught by Proyecto Tití education staff in local schools helps children think about their role in protecting cotton-tops. CARTITILLA engages students by drawing parallels to the similarities that cotton-tops have with humans. The most promising students become part of the Tití Club, which allows them to continue involvement with conservation and Proyecto Tití.
To save tamarins, you need to save their forest home- they only live up in the trees, and never come to the ground. Proyecto Tití works to restore fragmented habitat strands by working with local farmers and cattle ranchers to preserve selected areas of their land and creating new protected reserves, connecting them to create safe corridors for the tamarins to travel and live in. They're happy to say that they've recently secured another 200 acres specifically for cotton-tops, and are looking to secure many more.
plastic bags have been removed from the Colombian countryside to be recycled into colorful “eco-mochila” bags
students learned about cotton-tops and conservation through the CARTITILLA program in 2015
Rosamira Guillen entered the wildlife conservation field via a different path than many conservationists. She worked as a landscape architect for the Barranquilla Zoo in northwest Colombia and became the director of the zoo in 2001.
As Zoo Director, Rosamira was dedicated to developing partnerships with conservation organizations both in Colombia and around the world. One of these partnerships was with Proyecto Tití to create an education campaign about the local endangered cotton-top tamarin.
When the project became an official Colombian non-profit organization, Rosamira was excited to join as Executive Director. She is proud to lead a project that has important benefits for local and urban communities while also protecting Colombia’s incredible biodiversity.
How You Can Help
$150 will purchase CARTITILLA workbooks for a classroom of 40 students to teach Colombian children about the importance of cotton-top conservation.
$300 will outfit one field assistant with research gear such as a backpack, boots, raingear, repellent and a waterjug.
Proyecto Tití’s field team tracks cotton-tops in their forest home, and donations of any amount can help buy antennas, receivers and radio transmitters.
When you designate your donation to a specific species, 100% of your donation will go directly to the field to support this species.
Dark storm clouds start gathering across the sky as Felix, a senior field assistant at Proyecto Tití, glances impatiently at his watch. Soon it will be pouring rain, turning Colombia’s 1,000-acre Ceibal National Forest into quicksand. Felix is eager to get back indoors before that happens. He looks up and follows the movements of a female cotton-top tamarin sitting on a branch of a fruit tree. Felix is keeping his eye on her.