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Found only in the tropical forests of northern Colombia, cotton-top tamarins – a small, one-pound primate – are critically endangered due to extensive deforestation and capture for the illegal pet trade, with only around 7,000 remaining in the wild. Proyecto Tití (PT) is a non-profit organization, supported by the Wildlife Conservation Network, working to secure a long-term future for this unique monkey through field research, education, community development, and forest protection, restoration and connectivity programs.
In 2015, PT expanded to San Juan Nepomuceno (SJN) where some of the most important forest remnants still exist surrounding the Los Colorados Wildlife Sanctuary, a 1,000-hectare national park that is home to wild cotton-top tamarins. As part of our forest conservation program, we have established a 70-hectare reserve neighboring the wildlife sanctuary.
We have also designed a forest restoration plan and are working to create forest corridors (totalling 79 hectares) that will connect the wildlife sanctuary with surrounding isolated forest fragments, thus increasing habitat and improving genetic exchange for cotton-tops. These corridors are protected under conservation agreements with local land owners, providing them, in turn, with technical skills and supplies to increase the sustainability of their agriculture practices and thus their income.
These forest corridors are critical for the cotton-tops tamarins as they will allow them to expand their range (currently, only 2% of the cotton-tops’ historic range is still habitable for them!) and interbreed with other groups of cotton-tops, thus improving genetic diversity.
In 2017, we began restoring 38 of the 79 hectares of forest corridors; we are currently raising support to restore the remaining 41 hectares in 2018. Beyond the restoration itself, we also aim to monitor and document progress of the forest restoration activities and will continue working with the local land owners to keep them engaged and in compliance with the conservation agreements.
To achieve these goals, we will plant key native plant species in target areas. We will maintain the community nursery we have created, to grow the material needed for the restoration activities of the 41 hectares in 2018. Local landowners participate in the running of the nursery on monthly rotations, receiving training about the growth, propagation, and management of nursery plants. They also participate in the planting activities, which can only occur during the rainy season so that the seedlings have the best chance of survival. In 2017, over 24,000 seedlings were planted in the restoration areas (with the help of our reliable burros to access the steep hills!), and we expect to plant another 20,000 this year.
Proyecto Tití provides tools, materials, and supplies to landowners to implement restoration activities. We will keep a full-time team coordinating activities on the ground. Our staff will visit restoration areas periodically to monitor and document progress, and they will visit land owners for follow-up.
The $20,000 raised by the Footprints Network will restore over 15 hectares of habitat for cotton-tops (restoration costs about $1,300 per hectare, and we plan to begin restoration on 41 hectares in 2018).
Our direct beneficiaries (besides the cotton-top tamarins!) are the 26 local land owners who signed conservation agreements and their families (approximately 140 people) – they are the heart and soul of this project. Additionally, we partner with a number of organizations to carry out this project, including Fundación Herencia Ambiental Caribe, the National Park System, and Fundación Ecosistemas Secos de Colombia.
Indirectly, the community of San Juan Nepomuceno (population 32,000) will benefit through the ecological services they receive from the Los Colorados Wildlife Sanctuary and its surrounding forest areas (i.e. provision of water and food, regulation of water cycles, cultural and scenic value).
Forest protection, restoration, and connectivity are some of the main focuses of our strategic plan and an institutional priority. We consider deforestation and fragmentation to be one of the main threats for the long-term survival of cotton-top tamarins.
In future years, we’ll continue working with these landowners to monitor compliance with the conservation agreements so that both they and the local wildlife benefit from this forest restoration work. By the end of 2019, we expect to have 79 hectares of forest corridors in an intermediate stage of restoration successfully growing, and 100% compliance with conservation agreements from the 26 land owners participating in this project. We expect to have planted over 40,000 seedlings by the end of 2018.