How Many Cotton-top Tamarins Remain in Colombia?

Counting cotton-top tamarins in a tropical forest habitat requires a bit of ingenuity!  Given that they live 20-30 feet up in the trees and can be very difficult to spot in the forest, it is very easy to walk past them and never see them. We have devised a method that allows us to accurately count cotton-tops by taking advantage of their unique behavior. Cotton-tops actively defend their territories against intruding animals.  So we simulate a territorial encounter by playing the vocalizations of a strange animal while we walk transects through the forest.  If there is a cotton-top tamarin within 200 m they come running to see who is invading their territory long enough for our census team to count them!


We have more than 1,850 transects to survey this year and German and Felix who participated in the last two survey efforts are excited to go back to these forests to see how cotton-tops are faring.  Carolina and Jeisson who are leading the survey efforts this year are getting to see new forested areas that hopefully contain cotton-tops.  These survey efforts will not only help us determine the population, but it will also help us to identify new areas of forest that need to be protected for the future. 


Counting cotton-tops in remote areas is full of adventures.  Whether it is climbing hillsides, avoiding stinging insects, dealing with the incredibly hot weather,  and walking 2-3 km just to get to the survey point, the team remains in good spirits and is ready to explore Colombia.  Here’s to fun adventures and lots of cotton-tops!