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Protecting the Cotton-top Tamarin in Colombia

Current initiative


Proyecto Tití uses multi-disciplinary approach to conservation to protect cotton-top tamarins and the forests they inhabit in northern Colombia, combining field research and forest restoration with community engagement and education activities. These different programs are positively impacting forest cover, supporting local livelihoods and contributing to a positive conservation attitude not just locally but also further afield.  



Most work takes place in the northern region of Colombia in the departments of Bolívar, Atlántico and Sucre.

The poaching and wildlife trade problem

Species affected Cotton-top Tamarin Saguinus oedipus

Products in trade

Live animals for the illegal pet trade.

Overview of the problem

In addition to the major threats of deforestation and habitat destruction, cotton-tops are captured for the illegal pet trade. Many end up as family pets in rural areas in Colombia, largely due to a lack of awareness in these rural communities about the impacts the pet trade has on population numbers.

The anti-IWT initiative

Proyecto Tití uses a multi-disciplinary approach, combining field studies, forest restoration and protection, education, and sustainable community development to conserve the cotton-top tamarin and their forest habitats.


Proyecto Tití works with local communities to find solutions that promote both sustainable development and help to conserve cotton-tops and the forests.

Their community engagement approach focuses on two main activities:

1. Conservation education programs to increase knowledge, and change perceptions and behaviour of local people and children.

2. Community empowerment programs to build a sense of ownership of the forests and the cotton-top tamarins.


Proyecto Tití also hopes to increase awareness and education of conservation in the general public through their communication program.

Inclusion of gender, age and ethnic groups

Conservation education activities have a particular focus on schoolchildren.

The strategy

Increasing incentives for wildlife stewardship

Payments for ecosystem services
Further detail

Proyecto Tití works with local landowners to protect, restore and connect forest landscapes with the aim of creating forest corridors for the cotton-tap tamarins and other species. Private farmers set aside a proportion of their land for forest conservation under a conservation agreement. In exchange, they are supported to improve their agricultural practices through training and the supply of tools and seeds.

Proyecto Tití is also hoping to start ecotourism activities where tourists can visit the cotton-top tamarins and meet and support local people.

Increasing livelihoods that are not related to wildlife

(Non-wildlife-based) enterprise development/support
Further detail

Proyecto Tití works with local artisans to create hand-made tote bags under their “eco-mochilas” program. As the bags are made from plastic bags the program is also helping to reduce plastic pollution. Local artisans also produce a range of soft cotton-top tamarin toys.

Farmers participating in restoration activities also receive training in alternative income generating opportunities, such as honey harvesting and poultry production.

Build/and or support sense of community ownership or stewardship

Further detail

Proyecto Tití celebrates the Day of the Cotton-Top Tamarin on the 15th August each year. The day brings together local communities and program partners to show their support for conservation.

Improving education and awareness

Further detail

Most Proyecto Tití education activities focus on schoolchildren in communities living near forests inhabited with cotton-tops. Titi Kids is targeted at elementary school children to teach them the difference between wild and domestic animals so that they understand why they shouldn’t keep cotton-tops as pets. As part of this, Proyecto Tití created the AMIGUAU program to build strong bonds between children and dogs, so that they might chose to have a dog as a pet rather than a cotton-top.

For secondary school children, Proyecto Tití has the CARTITILLA program to teach them about cotton-tops and the threats they are facing, as well as build an emotional connection to the species. Many of the children in the rural communities have limited access to books, so Proyecto Tití has specially designed education materials to help children with lower reading skills. The children also get the chance to visit the cotton-tops in their natural habitat and to learn more about conservation.

Has the initiative made a difference?

Specific results include:

  • Protection of over 13,000 acres of vital common-top tamarin habitat
  • More than 400 people gathered to celebrate the annual Day of the Cotton-Top Tamarin in 2019.
  • Education programs have reached over 10,000 children since 2010, with nearly 2,000 from eight communities participating in 2019
  • Families have collected over 5,000 lbs of plastic which has been turned into 1,500 Tití Posts fences
  • Over 150 farmers have signed conservation agreements and are benefitting from protecting and restoring forests on their lands, with nearly 90% compliance to the agreement
  • Over 30 families are supported by the eco-mochila artisan program


Proyecto Tití evaluated their Titi Kids and CARTILLA programs. For the CARTILLA program, they found that children increased their knowledge of cotton-tops and maintained this knowledge for at least 5 years post-program. They had positive attitudes towards conservation, shared their knowledge with other people and stated that the program had positively impacted their lives. For the Titi Kids program they found children increased their knowledge of wild versus domestic species and their understanding how human-animal relationships.

Organisers, donors and partners

A list of partners can be found here

For further information contact (