The cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) is a small species of primate found only in a small part of South America. It is rated as "Critically Endangered" by the IUCN. It is a popular exhibit in zoos all around the world.
The cotton-top tamarin is an unmistakable species. It gets its name from the elegant, long, white flowing fur on its head. They generally weigh only about 420-450 grams. Their body length can be about 20-25 cm long while their tail can be about 35-40 cm long. Their tail is not prehensile i.e. it has not adapted to hold or manipulate objects. Males and females are generally same in size. Their face is generally black or gray in color with very fine white hair which is barely visible. Their back (dorsal side) is covered with brown fur while their front (ventral side) is covered with white or yellowish white fur. Their tail is also covered in brown fur. Unlike other monkeys, the cotton-top tamarin's thumbs are not opposable.
|Cotton top tamarin feeding on some dry fruits.|
Distribution and Habitat
The range of cotton-top tamarins are limited to the north-western side of Colombia, between the rivers Atrato, Cauca and Magdalena. Even in this region, their habitat is fragmented. They live in both tropical humid forests as well as tropical deciduous forests, primary as well as secondary forests. They prefer to live in the lower levels of forests but may descend to the ground in search of food or ascend tall trees for protection or food. They sleep in foliage cover.
Cotton-top tamarins are diurnal. They either live in pairs but more often live in groups. They spend the days foraging and grooming. They are very social animals and each group may consist 5-15 members. They follow a matriarchal system i.e. the leader of a group is the eldest female. Cotton-top tamarins groups follow a "helper" system where males and older siblings take care of the young and newly born for sometime.
Life Cycle and Breeding
|Infants along with parent.|
The cotton-top tamarin is rated as "Critically Endangered" by the IUCN. There are approximately 6,000 individuals remaining. Illegal pet trade and habitat fragmentation is the main cause of population decline. It is said that between the 1960's and 1970's about 30,000 individuals were exported to the United Sates for bio-medical research. The population is decreasing. It was one of the most endangered species of primate in the world between 2008-2011. It is protected by the law. The Paramillo National Park is one of the most important stretch of forest for this species and comprises of 1800 square miles. There are enough number of individuals in captivity for the sustenance of this species. It is said that their are more captive individuals than wild ones.
Source of pic 2, pic 3