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!”