Saving the Cotton-top Tamarin in Colombia

18 Apr 2012

The critically endangered Cotton-top Tamarin of Colombia is getting a second chance of life due to an innovative conservation plan called Proyecto Titi.

Threatened by loss of habitat, as well as illegal capture for the local pet trade - the Cotton-top Tamarin population is dwindling. Desperate to earn a living, residents of this economically challenged area often find themselves exploiting the Cotton-top Tamarin in order to provide for their families. Proyecto Titi was created to help this endangered species by first helping the people of the area.

The power behind the programme lies in providing income alternatives for local Colombian communities and engaging them in actions that positively impact the environment. Two of the most successful programs involve “bindes” and “eco-mochilas.”

Bindes are small cook-stoves that use fuel more efficiently than regular stoves and reduce the amount of firewood needed by as much as 66%. This reduces the number of trees that are cut down – and eliminates the harmful effects of excess smoke exposure.

Another successful effort has been the eco-mochila programme. With the support of a SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund grant, the program trains women from local communities to crochet tote bags (eco-mochilas) and other items (earrings, bracelets, coasters) using plastic bags. Proyecto Titi has trained over 400 women and recycled more than 2 million plastic bags in the last two years. Helping these poor communities establish a stable economy is the first step to building a strong platform for conservation efforts.

In addition, Proyecto Titi has created several programmes that focus on awareness and education this beloved species. The programme provides the only extensive data on the reproductive biology, behavior, feeding habits, and infant development of the Cotton-top Tamarin.

This unique conservation program is successful because it develops practical solutions that not only benefit wildlife, but also the people of the area.

Written by Marci Wise, Science Writer / Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

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