Cotton-top Tamarin Populations on the Rise at Disney

Cotton-top Tamarin Populations on the Rise at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park in Florida.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Cotton-top Tamarin Populations on the Rise at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park in Florida. Image: Pixabay

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Cotton-top Tamarin Populations on the Rise at Disney

The cotton-top tamarin, named for its white crown that extends from its forehead to its shoulders, is one of the smallest primates. They weigh less than 1 pound and can live up to 24 years. They are typically found in many types of forests in northwestern Columbia, including tropical wetland forests, moist woodland forests and dry thorn forest savannahs. The cotton-top tamarins are arboreal animals, meaning they are in safety only when in trees. These animals will not go to the ground to drink water. Instead, they will get all the required moisture from their food (fruit or leaves), raindrops, and dew.  

Unfortunately, the cotton-top tamarin is one of the most endangered primates in South America. Their tropical forests are being destroyed for cattle ranching, agriculture, and urban development. From 2013-2018, 98% of the tree cover loss in Colombia occurred within natural forests resulting in a 5% decrease in forests since 2000. These animals are also being captured and illegally sold as pets. They are popular because of their small size, playful nature, and distinctive white-blond hair. However, keeping tamarins as pets is illegal in most countries, including Colombia.

The illegal pet trade is a major source of income for poachers. They often use inhumane methods to capture cotton-top tamarins, such as shooting them with tranquillizer darts or setting traps. Once captured, the tamarins are often kept in cramped and unsanitary conditions. They may also be subjected to physical abuse or neglect.

The illegal pet trade has a devastating impact on populations. It not only reduces the number of tamarins in the wild, but it also separates them from their social groups, which can lead to stress and death.

As a result of these impacts, the cotton-top tamarin is found in isolated populations today, inhabiting fragmented remains of their former habitat. They are also unable to breed and sustain themselves successfully. The population of cotton-top tamarins is less than 7500 individuals in the wild.  

Cotton-top Tamarin Populations on the Rise at Disney

For the first time since 2001, two cotton-top tamarin monkeys were born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park in Florida. The babies weighed as much as a common chicken egg and measured approximately four inches long. These twins will be completely dependent on their families for survival and will be carried on the backs of their family members for up to 14 weeks.  

The Disney Conservation Fund has worked closely with Columbia’s non-profit organization, Proyecto Tití, to help protect the cotton-top tamarin. Proyecto Tití is committed to stopping the illegal pet trade, restoring habitats for the cotton-top tamarin, and educating children about the threats these animals face and how they can help. They are also dedicated to studying the tamarin’s social organization, reproduction strategies, and how they will respond to and use newly created forest corridors.

With the help of the Disney Conservation Fund, they have helped more than 180 local farmers establish conservation forest corridors, protect over 5500 hectares of forests and have helped to plant more than 100 000 trees for these animals and other wildlife. Disney has partnered with ProyectoTití for over 25 years and will continue to provide research and support to protect these animals.  

On August 15, Proyecto Tití celebrates the cotton-top tamarin with their various communities and partners. It is a way for their communities to show their support of conservation through dance, songs, art displays and more. Disney will also hold events that day to celebrate the cotton-top tamarin with activities and educational presentations.  

The birth of the twins at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park plays an important role in the continuation of one of the most endangered animals. And with continuous conservation, research, and community engagement, we can protect the cotton-top tamarin and the rich biodiversity found in Columbia.  

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