Proyecto Titi | Conserving Colombia's Wildlife
Proyecto Tití:
Conserving the
Cotton-top Tamarin
in Colombia
Cotton-top Tamarin

Cotton-top Tamarin Fun Facts

What are cotton-top tamarins?

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 zoos.    


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 members.

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 international markets.

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 cotton-top tamarins?

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 cotton-tops!
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.


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