Fundación Proyecto Tití (FPT) is dedicated to the protection of the Cotton-top Tamarin and its tropical dry forest habitat in Colombia. There are just 2,000 of these Critically Endangered monkeys left in the wild, confined to a section of northern Colombia. Previously exported in large numbers for biomedical research, today the species is mainly threatened by habitat loss driven by agriculture, mining, urban expansion and illegal logging, as well as the illegal pet trade.
A healthy population of Cotton-top Tamarins, protected by individuals, communities and the Colombian government, is the vision that FPT works towards. The organisation combines field research, education initiatives and community programmes to make the conservation of natural resources economically feasible for local communities in Colombia.
FPT was founded as an NGO in 2004 to oversee the multi-disciplinary conservation programme Proyecto Tití, which has been active in Colombia since 1985. The programme was founded by Dr Anne Savage, then a PhD student, who is now the world’s leading expert on Cotton-top Tamarins and the President of FPT.
From the outset, Dr Savage and the Proyecto Tití team have worked to involve local communities in Cotton-top Tamarin conservation, holding their first informal education programmes at a school in the town of Colosó in 1987. Soon after they implemented their first programme to help communities live more sustainably, providing the people of Colosó with fuel-efficient clay stoves to reduce their need for firewood and lessen their impact on the tamarin’s forest habitat.
Over the years Proyecto Tití added Colombian leaders, biologists, educators and influencers to its team, developing partnerships with several organisations in Colombia before FPT was founded in 2004. Conservationist Rosamira Guillen joined as Executive Director the following year, and under her direction FPT has grown to receive international recognition for their approach that combines field research, habitat protection, effective scientific assessment of habitats, and involvement of local people in culturally relevant, action-based community programmes.
WLT partnered with FPT in 2022 to support the expansion of Los Titíes de San Juan, a forest reserve created by FPT. Located in Colombia’s San Juan Nepomuceno municipality, this reserve currently covers 439 ha and sits adjacent to Los Colorados National Park, which is listed as both a Key Biodiversity Area and an Important Bird Area. Both the reserve and the park contain the tropical dry forest that Cotton-top Tamarins rely on for their survival – this is one of the most threatened ecosystems in Colombia, with less than 8% of the original forest cover remaining.
With the purchase of three properties, the WLT-FPT project will expand Los Titíes de San Juan by 40.6 ha. These properties are strategically important for connecting existing plots within the reserve and to the national park. This is part of FPT’s long-term vision for the region, securing habitat in perpetuity for Cotton-top Tamarins by protecting key forest corridors. WLT will also support four FPT field staff who will monitor and patrol the project area.
Los Titíes de San Juan
The land surrounding Los Titíes de San Juan – including the three properties targeted by this project – is threatened by forest clear-cutting for cattle and agriculture. Teak plantations are also increasing in the area and there is still some selective logging of timber for fencing or sale of larger trees. By expanding protection for these threatened forests, WLT will be securing a safer future for the Cotton-top Tamarin and a host of other species.
FPT’s biodiversity monitoring in Los Titíes de San Juan has so far revealed 212 bird species, 44 mammal species, 47 reptile species and 20 amphibian species. Threatened animals include the Colombian Black Spider Monkey (Vulnerable) and the endemic Dahl’s Toad-headed Turtle (Critically Endangered). An additional 202 plant species have been documented, including the Red Ceiba tree (Vulnerable) and the Endangered evergreen tree Aspidosperma polyneuron.
- FPT operates the longest-running field study of wild Cotton-top Tamarins and is the only organisation in Colombia that works at three different field sites. The team’s wide-ranging research has produced publications on Cotton-top Tamarin diet, reproduction, infant development and more.
- In collaboration with Fundación Herencia Ambiental Caribe, FPT is working with farmers in the Montes de María region to create over 1,000 ha of forest corridors, connecting privately owned land to Los Colorados National Park. These corridors will help to connect isolated populations of Cotton-top Tamarins and preserve their genetic viability.
- So far 11 villages and 123 landowners have been engaged in this project, receiving seeds, tools, supplies, and training in agricultural practices as compensation.
- The Tití Kids programme uses classroom lessons, puppet shows and interactive games to teach children about the difference between wild and domestic animals, and the negative impact of keeping Cotton-top Tamarins as pets.
- The Cartitilla programme focuses on building a strong emotional connection between secondary school students and Cotton-top Tamarins. Students learn about the species, receive an illustrated workbook, and are also taken out to the forest to see the tamarins in the wild.
- FPT has worked with local people to create artisan cooperatives, producing plush Cotton-top Tamarin toys as well as traditional tote bags crocheted from recycled plastic.
- One of the ways to support FPT is with the purchase of a Tití Post: a fence post made from recycled plastic. Tití Posts replace traditional fence posts made from saplings, as harvesting these young trees has a negative impact on the long-term survival and regeneration of forest habitat.
- FPT has designated August 15 as the Day of the Cotton-top Tamarin. Communities and FPT partners come together to show their support for Cotton-top Tamarin conservation through dance, songs, art displays and more.
- FPT has helped to protect over 1,700 ha of forest in Colombia.
- Since 2010, more than 10,000 students have participated in FPT’s education programmes.
- In 2008, following a population census of the Cotton-top Tamarin carried out by the FPT team, our partner successfully petitioned to have the species raised from Endangered to Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
- That same year, the Cotton-top Tamarin was listed by the IUCN as one of the ‘World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates’. It has now been removed from this list thanks to its relatively stable population, which it owes largely to the tireless conservation work of FPT.
- Rosamira Guillen was the recipient of the 2015 Whitley Award from the Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN), which recognised the importance of her work with FPT and awarded funds to help it expand – protecting more forest, engaging more communities, and establishing more sustainable livelihoods.
Guillen also received continuation funding from the WFN in 2017 and 2022. This funding is being used to support their reforestation work with local landowners.
- Guillen was named as a National Geographic Explorer in 2017. Described by National Geographic as “exceptional individuals in their fields”, Explorers receive funding and professional support to help them “illuminate and protect our world through their work”.
Executive Director: Rosamira Guillen