What are cotton-top
Cotton-top tamarins are tiny monkeys
(about the size of a squirrel) that weigh
less than one pound. Cotton-top tamarins get
their name from the white fur that is on top
of their heads. Their backs are brown, and
they have white bellies and black faces.
Cotton-top tamarins can live for about 8-12
years in the wild, and up to 10-25 years in
What do they do?
Cotton-top tamarins are active during the
day and sleep at night, just like people. At
night they sleep huddled together with the
youngest members tucked in the middle of the
group. During the day cotton-top tamarins
spend most of their time searching for food.
Young animals enjoy playing with their
brothers and sisters and everyone loves to
be groomed. Grooming is good for removing
all those pesky ticks and mites but it also
helps to strengthen the bonds among animals
in the group. It's just like getting a hug!
Where are they from?
In the wild, cotton-top tamarins live
only in the country of Colombia in South
America. They can be found in the northwest
region of the country living high in the
treetops of the tropical forests.
Do cotton-top tamarins
live in groups?
Yes, cotton-top tamarins live in groups
that have anywhere from two to twelve
Most of the cotton-top tamarins in these
groups are related to each other. For every
group, there is only one male and female
pair that has babies. The females usually
give birth to twins once a year. In
cotton-top tamarin groups, everyone takes
care of the baby monkeys. Fathers, brothers,
and sisters carry infants on their backs.
This is great training for younger members
to learn how to care for infants.
When cotton-top tamarins want to talk to
each other they make a sound called a chirp,
a short, sharp noise that sounds a lot like
a bird. Family members talk to each other
for the same reasons we do: to let other
family members know where they are, to warn
each other of danger, to talk to their
friends, and to let the rest of their group
know it’s time to eat.
What do they eat?
Cotton-top tamarins eat mostly fruits and
insects. Sometimes they will eat bird eggs
and lizards. They love to lick the sap from
trees. Cotton-tops get the water they need
from the fruits they eat or by licking the
morning dew from leaves.
Who are their predators?
The main predators for cotton-top
tamarins are hawks and snakes. However, they
must also be on the lookout for humans too!
Humans may try to catch them and sell them
illegally in the pet trade of local and
Are they endangered?
Yes, cotton-top tamarins are one of the
most endangered primates in the world. They
are endangered because people destroy their
tropical forest habitat. Many cotton-top
tamarins are also captured and sold
illegally as pets.
How can I help
Everyone can do simple things to help
these amazing monkeys. Spread the word and
tell your friends all about one of the
world's most endangered animals, don’t
forget to choose your pets wisely and do not
adopt monkeys as pets.
Get everyone in your class together to
collect pennies for cotton top tamarins. You
could even start a contest with other
classes to see who can raise the most for
Another great way to help cotton-top
tamarins is to purchase a mochila. Mochilas
are bags and purses that are made from the
same plastic shopping bags that people use
to carry their groceries. The bags are woven
together the same way a hand-made sweater
is. Reusing the shopping bags instead of
throwing them away helps the environment. It
also helps the local people who sell them to
help support their families.
How do we know so much
about cotton-top tamarins?
The team of Proyecto Tití has been
studying cotton-top tamarins in the tropical
forest of Colombia since 1985! Each day
scientists and field assists follow groups
of cotton-top tamarins to learn more about
their behavior, what they eat, where they
sleep, how they reproduce, and what they
need to survive. That information is shared
with local people in Colombia and you, so
that you too can become a Cotton-top
Champion! The more everyone knows about what
cotton-top tamarins need to survive the
better decisions we can make to help protect
them for the future.