Winner of the Whitley Award donated by Sarah Chenevix-Trench
Threatened by habitat destruction and hunting for the illegal pet trade, populations of the cotton-top tamarin have fallen dramatically. Found only in isolated forest fragments in Colombia, they are now classified as one of the most endangered primates on the planet, with fewer than 7,400 estimated to remain in the wild.
A leading light
Rosamira Guillen is Executive Director of Fundación Proyecto Tití, an organisation established in 2004 to ensure the survival of these small monkeys and their habitat through scientific research, education, and sustainable livelihood activities. Since she discovered their plight, over 1,700 ha of forest have been protected. Education programmes to increase awareness and discourage families from keeping exotic pets have benefited more than 2,000 children, and eco-friendly jobs have increased income, whilst reducing people’s need to cut down the forest for firewood.
The project is working. Recent surveys indicate the cotton-top tamarin population is stabilising, and a National Conservation Programme has been developed with stakeholders. To ensure this upward trajectory continues, Rosamira is scaling up her work to a new site, as part of a long-term conservation plan.
Rosamira’s project will:
- Identify priority forest fragments where cotton-top tamarins are still found, and work in partnership with local communities and environmental authorities to ensure their protection.
- Establish sustainable livelihoods that generate income and reduce people’s dependency on forest resources.
- Engage local communities with education programmes to increase awareness, and inspire young people to become wildlife ambassadors.
Why it matters:
- The project will benefit 10% of the cotton-top tamarin population.
- Only 8% of Colombia’s tropical dry forest remains intact.
- This work will also conserve habitat for ocelots, sloths, armadillos, anteaters, howler and capuchin monkeys, as well as many other species.
“When I heard that these tamarins were found only in Colombia and that they were in danger of becoming extinct in my lifetime, I felt that I had to do something!”
2017 Continuation Funding
Restoring forest for cotton-top tamarins in northern Colombia
£70,000 over 2 years
Cotton-top tamarins are only found in the tropical forests of northern Colombia, and are one of the most threatened primates on the planet. With only a few thousand remaining, these tiny monkeys are Critically Endangered due to extensive deforestation, and capture for the illegal pet trade. Following a learning exchange with fellow Whitley Award winner Laury Cullen from Brazil, Rosamira is now promoting reforestation with local landowners. Using conservation agreements with landowners and the reforestation methods from Brazil, the team is linking forest fragments to double the area of suitable habitat for cotton-tops and connect isolated populations. Collaborating with specialist forest and human development organisations to undertake independent monitoring, the project will deliver robust reforestation with the support of local landowners to provide a lasting refuge for cotton-tops in this area of Colombia.
2022 CONTINUATION FUNDING
Forest restoration and livelihood improvements to support cotton-top tamarin conservation in Colombia
£35,000 over 1 year
Cotton-top tamarins are found only in northern Colombia, but these tiny one-pound primates are Critically Endangered due to extensive deforestation and habitat fragmentation. Much of their range was also at the centre of more than five decades of civil unrest in the country, which displaced many farmers in rural areas. In 2016, the Colombian government signed a Peace Accord with illegally armed groups, enabling many farmers to return to their land, but a lack of resources meant landowners were left with limited means to improve productivity.
Rosamira and her NGO Proyecto Tití work to restore forest connectivity for cotton-top tamarins by establishing conservation agreements with local landowners – an attractive opportunity for farmers to increase productivity and improve their livelihoods, while restoring hectares of forests. With past WFN funding, and working in partnership with Colombia’s National Park Service and other local NGOs, Rosamira and her team have already established agreements with more than 170 families, creating over 1,000 ha of forest corridors currently under restoration.
Building on her past success, Rosamira will now scale up her approach to the village of Páramo, establishing agreements with farmers to restore an additional 45 ha with 15,000 saplings of native species. By further restoring and connecting this threatened primate’s forest habitat, Rosamira and her team are benefitting local farmers and engaging them in conservation, while giving cotton-top tamarins and other wildlife the space they need to thrive.