taking action for

Cotton-Top Tamarins

The Oakland Zoo has supported Proyecto Tití in their efforts to create nearly 13,000 acres of protected forests for this critically endangered monkey.

Distinguished by a fluff of white hair and a voice that sounds remarkably like a bird, cotton-top tamarins (nicknamed "titis") are listed by the IUCN as being at high risk for extinction. Their current habitat is restricted to a small area of northwest Colombia. Besides loss of habitat due to the expansion of agriculture, logging, and construction, these creatures are on the brink of extinction because of the lucrative lure of the illegal pet trade. Oakland Zoo is committed to partnering with programs that preserve and regenerate tamarin habitats, and supporting sustainable livelihoods to ensure communities and tamarins thrive in the tropical forests of Colombia.

Conservation Challenges


From 2013-2018, 98% of the tree cover loss in Colombia occurred within natural forests. Some of the most vulnerable forest habitats are where cotton-top tamarins live. These small primates rely upon the forest to survive. Habitat fragmentation made by roads and construction are causing the primate populations to become isolated which threatens their ability to survive.

Pet Trade

In the late 1960s, more than 20,000 cotton-top tamarins were exported to the United States for medical research. This practice ended when the wild primate population drastically dropped and the species was declared endangered in 1973. However, even with the export ban in place, there is still a high demand today for these adorable little monkeys to be poached from the wild and illegally sold as pets. Through conservation efforts, the illegal pet trade practice in Colombia has been significantly reduced in recent years, thanks to Oakland Zoo’s conservation partner, Proyecto Titi. However, many people living near the tamarins' forest habitat still don’t know that the “titís” or tiny monkeys are endangered. More education and conservation work needs to be done or this primate species will disappear forever.

Eco-friendly products sold by Proyecto Titi. (photo: Suzi Eszterhas)

Oakland Zoo is Taking Action for the Cotton Top Tamarin

Project Support

Oakland Zoo supports the mission of Proyecto Titi through an annual partnership grant. Proyecto Titi is restoring the forest, inspiring leaders of tomorrow, supporting local communities by nurturing sustainable alternatives, and tracking tamarins throughout their habitat. Proyecto Titi has drastically decreased the pet trade of cotton-top tamarins by offering creative solutions to meet the needs of those who were poaching. Alternative incomes by making environmentally-friendly bags and tamarin stuffed animals have helped communities break their reliance on this unsustainable illegal wildlife trade.

Community Engagement

Oakland Zoo shares conservation issues facing Cotton-Top Tamarin and empowering solutions to conserve them to the public through a variety of channels: Docents and Volunteers, Teen Wild Guides, Education Programs, Events, Exhibits, Campaigns, Keeper Talks, and media stories.

Campaigns and Initiatives

Oakland Zoo is committed to combating the illegal wildlife trade and encourages our community to Take Action against the Illegal Wildlife Trade by taking the #EndTheTrade pledge.

Leadership Training and Staff Expertise

Oakland Zoo provides yearly professional development training for field partners, offering them a myriad of staff skills and resources to enhance conservation efforts.

Proyecto Tití (Columbia)

Proyecto Tití is a multidisciplinary program that works to study cotton-top tamarins in the wild, educates local communities about the need to protect Colombia's biodiversity, and finds ways to make conservation empowering and economically feasible for local people.

Proyecto Titi staffers observe wild tamarins in Colombia (photo: Suzi Eszterhas)

Taking Action for Cotton-Top Tamarins: You Can Too!

  • TAKE the #EndTheTrade Pledge.
  • PURCHASE wisely: do not buy a monkey as a pet.
  • DONATE to Oakland Zoo’s conservation fund that supports Proyecto Titi and cotton-top tamarins in the wild. Contact Amy Gotliffe to make a donation.
  • ADOPT, DON’T SHOP & RESEARCH: Do your research before getting your next pet. Look for animals that need adopted or rescued. Visit the SPCA for pets, and don’t buy a pet thatc ould be part of the illegal pet trade. 
  • CHOOSE sustainable wood with the Forest Stewardship Council logo that does not contribute to the illegal logging of forest and global habitat loss.
  • ENJOY rainforest-friendly coffee, chocolate, tea and other products that do not degrade the forest. Just look for the frog logo!
  • READ labels: Choose Sustainable palm oil products or no palm oil in your products.  Find out more and download the Sustainable Palm Oil App.
  • SHOP to protect: Purchase your eco-mochilla from Proyecto Titi here.