Every once in a while, I like to use a blog post to highlight an organization that is out working for animals in the wild. Some - such as Turtle Survival Alliance, Amphibian Ark, and Panthera - are concerned with protecting certain groups of animals. Others are focused more on geographic areas; Polar Bears International focuses on the Arctic, ZCOG on Latin America. Still other groups focus on a single species. Such a group is Proyecto Titi.
Proyecto Titi is devoted to the conservation of one of the world's most endangered primates, the cotton-top tamarin. Highly popular in zoos around the world, these squirrel-sized monkeys are endemic to the rainforests of Colombia, and as the forests have vanished, so have the tamarins. Founded in 1985, Proyecto Titi has worked to raise awareness about the tamarins' plight and find solutions to lead to its conservation.
The advantage of being an organization that focuses on one species found in one country is that Proyecto Titi can get to know the communities it works with very well and find ways to better help people and animals coexists. For example, a contributing cause of habitat loss in Colombia is the clearing of trees for fuelwood, as many poor, rural communities cook over open fire. Solar ovens were introduced, but for a variety of reasons were not deemed successful. Project leaders than worked with communities to create new, environmentally-friendly, more fuel-efficient ovens that helped families lower their need for fuel wood and thereby lower their impact on the forest. Likewise, Proyecto Titi was helped local communities clear up the forest AND turn a profit at the same time by making and selling eco-mochilas - colorful handbags that are made from plastic trash bags that would otherwise be polluting the rainforest.
Besides community involvement, Proyecto Titi is involved in researching cotton-tops (a lot of their research is linked on their website, check it out!) and working to increase awareness about this endangered primate. In both of these goals, the organization has been supported by zoos participating in the Cotton-Top Tamarin Species Survival Plan; many zoos which display cotton-tops show their support through financial contributions to the Project.
Protecting cotton-top tamarins doesn't just help the primates. It also helps to protect the entire forest ecosystem in which they exist. Proyecto Titi is an excellent example of using a flagship species to rally support from all interested parties - scientists, zoo professionals, and, above all, local peoples - to protect an endangered species in an endangered habitat.