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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Proyecto Titi: Saving small monkeys with crazy hair for over 25 years

Proyecto Titi logo
Proyecto Titi is an organization designed to save Colombia's critically endangered cotton-top tamarins Saguinus oedipus and preserve habitats and biodiversity within the forests where tamarins live.  Cotton-top tamarins are a small primate species found only within Colombian tropical forests.  Although there are no accurate estimates concerning their original population size, tamarins must have numbered at least within the tens of thousands since 20,000-30,000 were exported during the late 1960's for medical tests and the pet trade, and since at least 75% (but possibly 98%) of their original forest habitat has been cleared.  The latest population estimate is there could be 7,400 animals left, presumably 20% or less than the original population.  Unfortunately, habitat destruction continues unabated, and two hydroelectric dams being built will flood much remaining forest.



Anne Savage founded Proyecto Titi during 1985 to halt the devastation being wrought on the species, while she studied both wild and captive tamarins.  A very few people form Proyecto Titi, but do amazing work given their size.  Proyecto Titi run educational outreach programs within affected areas which stop hunting and forest destruction, run an inventive tamarins for slingshots program (trading local children stuffed tamarin dolls for slingshots which the children use when hunting the animals), designed and distribute special ovens which are extremely efficient (the ovens use 2/3 less wood than what the villagers use, so villagers will cut less of the forest's wood) and reduce health problems which villagers experience using their original cooking system, and conduct tamarin conservation research (using special techniques which they invented).
Cotton-top Tamarin Saguinus oedipus ©Trisha Shears
Cotton-top tamarin ©Trisha Shears
Proyecto Titi has done amazing work while using so few employees, but that is because their few employees are relentlessly driven and incredibly dedicated concerning cotton-top tamarins.  I worked alongside Anne Savage over several years and saw firsthand how incredibly motivated she is concerning cotton-tops, sometimes risking her own safety.  She is tremendously knowledgeable regarding tamarins, and is almost certainly the foremost cotton-top tamarin authority.  I have also met Rosamira Guillen repeatedly and her enthusiasm over tamarins equals Anne's.  It's no wonder this small team has made such a large difference against such overwhelming odds.  But they need help saving the cotton-top tamarin (the cooperative captive breeding program ensures long-term zoo species survival is safe, but ideally there would be more wild tamarins living safely than captive ones).  Help them save tamarins & the associated forest, and do donate what you can so they can continue their work and expand it into more communities.  Through working together cotton-top tamarins can be saved.
Children performing a cotton-top dance during a festival to celebrate the cotton-top tamarin


Interested in learning more about cotton-top tamarins?  Check out these great links/books on primates:

Here is a link to download the work on cotton-top tamarins by Patricia Neyman, who studies their wild ecology, social organization, and conservation status.

Living New World Monkeys Platyrrhini Volume 1 by Philip Hershkovitz
Living New World Monkeys (Platyrrhini) volume 1 (no more volumes were ever made, sadly) by Philip Hershkovitz is quite pricey but well worth the expense if you are excited by tamarins and other small New World monkeys.
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