Photo: Colombia’s Tití Monkey Needs Our Help to Survive
Tití monkeys – also known as cotton top tamarins – live only in the tropical dry forest of Colombia and only 6,000 remain. The Nature Conservancy, international ecological organizations and local ranchers are working to reduce poaching, protect the remaining forest and connect the isolated patches of forest that the tití monkeys call home.
People in the surrounding communities often cut trees or hunt or catch monkeys to sell to the biomedical and pet trades as a source of income. No one should every adopt or take in one of these animals because they are so rare and lives best in tropical dry forest. These monkeys are too cute for words, with their big eyes and puffy white cotton top hair that makes them look like a mad scientist. They move in rapid bursts, only to suddenly pause and look you straight in the eye.
Conservancy partner Proyecto Tití an organization dedicated to conserving the monkeys, helps to address issues affecting the monkeys by building a unique industry among local communities. Villagers collect plastic bags from homes, cut them and weave them into beautiful mochila bags that are sold online and at zoos like Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You can purchase a mochila bag or eco-mochila bracelet by clinking on the link here. The resulting eco-mochila bag sales have changed the lives of communities, providing meaningful employment, better schools and better sanitation, and it has ended the poaching of titís in that area.
But the monkeys face another problem. Two years ago, Proyecto Tití used satellites to map the remaining Colombian dry forest. The picture was bleak: Only about 123,000 acres remained.
It gets worse. When Conservancy scientists examined the satellite data on the ground, they found that, in reality, there was much less than even the satellites estimated. In 2007, ecologists verified 68 remaining patches of forest, each of just 200 to 250 acres. Unfortunately, many ranchers still believe that an uncleared forest is a sign of sloppiness. They can’t move through the cleared areas, due to their reliance on trees. The Conservancy is also working with ranchers to develop methods to have more productive cattle operations on fewer acres. For instance, in exchange for the Conservancy’s assistance in planting more nutritious grasses and supplying mineral blocks so cattle gain weight and have more successful calf births, a rancher would set aside part of his land for forests.
“We cannot just ask cattle ranchers to set aside their land for conservation,” says Jaime Erazo, private lands coordinator for the Conservancy’s Northern Tropical Andes program. “They need an economic incentive. By making their livestock operations more productive, we in turn can protect more acres of forest for monkeys and other wildlife.”