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Cotton-top Tamarin

Updated: Nov 10, 2020


A Cotton-Top Tamarin standing on a large branch. Find the original here.



Population Estimate: 6,000 ↓DECREASING↓


Brief Description

Fittingly named for their luscious locks, Cotton-Top Tamarins, Saguinus oedipus, are among the most endangered primates on the planet. Tamarins spend most of their lives in the lower canopies of Columbian’s dry and humid forests alike, and are very rarely seen on the ground. They enjoy living in small groups , usually between three to ten individuals but sometimes even reaching up to nineteen. Groups are fiercely territorial, marking their territory with scents and usually living within a small range of 15 – 25 acres. There can be several breeding pairs within a group, but there is one pair that are considered the dominant pair of the group. Tamarins are monogamous and always give birth to two fraternal twins. Additionally, male tamarins are heavily involved in the rearing of their young as it is a laborious process.

Various Cotton-Top Tamarin populations in 2005 compared to 2012 in 5 different locations and total. This graph shows the massive impact deforestation has on the Tamarins as the populations decreased significantly in just 7 years. Find the original here.

Written by — Joe Sweeney


Fun Facts

  1. Cotton top Tamarins actually have their own sophisticated language, made up of 38 different calls.

  2. Each individual has their own unique hair pattern, kinda like snowflakes!

  3. They are only found in a small range of forests in Northwest Colombia.

  4. Cotton-Top Tamarins sleep in later than other similar primates, most likely because it decreases competition for resources.

  5. Cotton-Top Tamarins are the only species besides humans that can develop colon cancer suddenly.


How You Can Help

Although exportation of tamarins for pet trade and zoos was the original cause of population decline in the wild, habitat loss is the biggest hazard to Cotton-Top Tamarins today. Loss of forests to agriculture and extracting precious resources, has been estimated at 75% of Cotton-Top Tamarin’s forests destroyed. Despite efforts by the Colombian Government, recently pressure by local industries have decreased protected forests to a mere 2,600km². At the current rate of habitat loss and decreasing population, the Cotton-Top Tamarin’s future may seem bleak. They have been considered endangered since 1969 and export of Cotton-Top Tamarins was banned in 1979 proving that it is not impossible to protect these rockstar primates.


Donation / Petition Links

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