Project Tamarin (Colombia)

Project Tamarin is a multidisciplinary conservation program that combines field research with educational and community programs, to make the conservation of natural resources economically feasible for local communities in Colombia.

The Cotton-top Tamarin is one of the most endangered primates in the world. The species was declared endangered in 1973 following the exportation of 30,000 tamarins to the United States for biomedical research.

The Cotton-top Tamarin is a tiny one pound monkey found only in the tropical forest of northern Colombia. Cotton-top Tamarins live in groups of 2 to 12 individuals and spend their day feeding on fruits, insects, small lizards, and an occasional tasty bird's egg or sweet sap from a tree. Females give birth to twins roughly once a year and everyone in the family helps to take care of and play with the infants-- moms, dads, brothers, and sisters.

Today the greatest threat to the survival of the Cotton-top Tamarin is from deforestation for agriculture, fuel, and housing. The animals are also sought by poachers for the local pet trade. Presently, there are only two national parks and one protected reserve within the range of the Cotton-top Tamarin.

In an effort to draw public attention to the illegal capture of wildlife for the pet trade, Project Tamarin encouraged villagers to trade in their sling-shots, commonly used to hunt and capture tamarins, for a stuffed toy. Education and public awareness programs have become a regular part of classroom education in the local village schools. Posters were distributed and now decorate the walls of many homes, and children grow up with a sense of pride in protecting the Cotton-top Tamarin.

In an effort to both decrease forest consumption and improve the health of the women in the village, Project Tamarin worked with the local people to create bindes (small efficient stoves) to cook their food. This reduced the amount of wood needed for cooking and reduced the harm to women's lungs from cooking over an open fire.

What is an Eco-Mochila?

Mochilas are traditional bags made in Colombia from plant fiber. Project Tamarin has sponsored a program to re-design them so they can be made from waste plastic, specifically from discarded plastic bags. There are no formal means to manage waste in small villages, so most trash is thrown to the roadside or burned. As a result, huge quantities of plastic bags have been found littering the forests and villages of Colombia, where the Cotton-top amarin makes it home.

This revolutionary program turns plastic bags, that were cluttering the environment and jeopardizing the health of the Cotton-Tops, into something that generates a direct economic benefit to local communities. That's how the eco-mochila was born. So take that trash and turn it into something that makes a difference in the lives of people and tamarins both!

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