Saguinus oedipus


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Saguinus oedipus
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Name(s):
English Cotton-headed Tamarin, Cotton-top Tamarin
French Tamarin Á Perruque, Tamarin À Perruque, Tamarin D'Oedipe, Tamarin Pinché
Spanish Bichichi, Tití Blanco, Tití Cabeza Blanca, Tití Leoncito, Tití Pielroja
Taxonomic Notes: Hershkovitz (1977) considered Saguinus geoffroyi to be a subspecies of S. oedipus. Comparative morphological studies by Hanihara and Natori (1987), Moore and Cheverud (1992) and Skinner (1991) argued for them being separate species. Eisenberg (1989), Rylands (1993), Hernández-Camacho and Cooper (1976), Mittermeier and Coimbra-Filho (1981), Hernández-Camacho and Defler (1989), Mittermeier et al. (1988), Rylands et al. (1993), Groves (1993, 2001, 2005), Mast et al. (1993) and Defler (1994) all list S. geoffroyi and S. oedipus as separate species.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A2cd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Savage, A. & Causado, J.
Reviewer(s): Mittermeier, R.A. & Rylands, A.B. (Primate Red List Authority)
This species is listed as Critically Endangered due to a severe reduction in population, estimated to be greater than 80% over the past 3 generations (18 years) due to destruction of habitat.
2000 Endangered
1996 Endangered
1994 Endangered (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Endangered (IUCN 1990)
1988 Endangered (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
1986 Endangered (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
1982 Endangered (Thornback and Jenkins 1982)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Saguinus oedipus occurs in north-western Colombia between the Río Atrato and the lower Río Cauca (west of the Río Cauca and the Isla de Mompos) and Magdalena, in the Departments of Atlantico, Sucre, Cordoba, and western Bolivar, north-western Antiquoia (from the Uraba region, west of the Río Cauca) and north-eastern Choco, east of the Río Atrato, from sea level up to 1,500 m (Hernández-Camacho and Cooper 1976; Hershkovitz 1977; Hernández-Camacho and Defler 1989; Mast et al. 1993 ).

The south-western boundary of the cotton-top's range has not been clearly identified. Mast et al. (1983) suggested that it may extend to Villa Arteaga on the Río Sucio (Hershkovitz 1977), which included reports of Cotton-top Tamarins in Los Katios National Park. However, Barbosa et al. (1988) were unable to find any evidence of Cotton-top Tamarins in this area nor in Los Katios, where they observed only Saguinus geoffroyi.

Groups have been seen in the Islas del Rosario and Tayrona National Park in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Mast et al. 1993; A. Savage and L. H. Giraldo, pers. obs.). However, these populations were founded by captive animals that were released into the area (Mast et al. 1993) and these remnant populations are here considered as outside of the historic range of the species.
Colombia (Colombia (mainland))
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: In the late 1960s and early 1970s, 20,000-30,000 individuals were exported to the United States for biomedical research (Hernández-Camacho and Cooper 1976). Current population estimates for the species are 6,000 individuals (approximately 2,000 mature individuals).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species occurs in humid forest in the south to dry deciduous forest in the north; recorded from primary and secondary forests. Known at altitudes up to 400 m, but could occur in higher elevations in the upper valley of the Río Sinu (Defler 2004).

Marmosets and tamarins are distinguished from the other monkeys of the New World by their small size, modified claws rather than nails on all digits except the big toe, the presence of two as opposed to three molar teeth in either side of each jaw, and by the occurrence of twin births. They eat fruits, flowers, nectar, plant exudates (gums, saps, latex) and animal prey (including frogs, snails, lizards, spiders and insects). Marmosets have morphological and behavioural adaptations for gouging trees trunks, branches and vines of certain species to stimulate the flow of gum, which they eat, and in some species form a notable component of the diet. The dentition of the tamarins (Saguinus and Leontopithecus) does not provide for gouging and they eat gums only when readily available.

Tamarins live in extended family groups of between four and 15 individuals, but usually 2-8. Saguinus oedipus lives in groups of 2-9. Savage et al. (1996a,b) observed reproductively active groups that ranged in size from 3-6. Generally, only one female per group breeds during a particular breeding season. Lives in groups of 2-9 individuals.

Tamarins are monomorphic - exhibiting only minor differences in body and canine size.
Adults H&B 20.8-25.9 cm, TL 33.0-41.0 cm (Hershkovitz 1977)
Weight 416.5 g (n = 10) (Savage 1990).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Saguinus oedipus occurs in an area of intensive colonization and forest loss. Neyman (1978) estimated that 75% of the original distribution of S. oedipus had been cleared for agriculture and pasture, and that the remainder of its range was represented by small isolated forest patches along with its main stronghold, the Paramillo National Natural Park of 460,000 ha. Cerquera (1985) reported on the threats regarding the construction of two hydroelectric dams, Urra I and Urra II, on the Ríos Sinu and San Jorge, in the south of its range. Urra II is sited within the Paramillo National Natural Park and is expected to flood more than 54,000 ha of primary and secondary forest, within what is considered to be the last major stronghold for the species.

The three protected areas where they occur have lost a significant portion of their forests (Barbosa et al. 1988). Paramillo has lost approximately 42% of its original forested habitat and Montes de Maria and Los Colorados lost 70 and 71%, respectively. To date, almost 200,000 ha of the original forested areas within protected boundaries of the parks and reserves dedicated to Cotton-top Tamarin conservation efforts have been lost. This suggests, therefore, that there is less than 2,600 km² that will be protected in perpetuity for Cotton-top Tamarins by the Colombian Ministerio del Medio Ambiente. Although these areas are protected, they continue to suffer from the pressure of the growing local populations to extract resources or clear areas for agricultural activities.

Defler (1994, 2004; pp.196-201) discusses the conservation status and threats to this species (see also Defler and Rodríguez-Mahecha 2003; Defler et al. 2003).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Legally protected in Colombia since 1969. Major threat in the past was export for the pet trade, zoos and biomedical research, but export was banned in 1974. Listed on CITES Appendix I.

There are three protected areas where Saguinus oedpipus occurs: Paramillo National Natural Park (460,000 ha), decreed in 1977; Los Colorados Fauna and Flora Sanctuary (1,000 ha) decreed in 1977; and Reserva Forestal Cerro de Coraza-Monte de Marja (7,460 ha) decreed in 1983. They were also introduced to Tayrona National Natural Park in 1974 (Defler 1994).

Proyecto Tití, a conservation programme for the Cotton-top Tamarin in Colombia, was established in 1987 to begin the first long-term field study on this species in collaboration with Colombian biologists, educators, NGO?s and government authorities (INDERENA, Ministerio del Medio Ambiente) (Savage 1988, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997; Savage et al. 1996a,b, 1997, 2001a,b). Initial research focused on understanding the factors influencing reproductive strategies of Cotton-top Tamarins, but it quickly grew into a comprehensive conservation programme including educational efforts, capacity building, training Colombian students, development of economic alternatives, and the development of an agricultural training programme to decrease the pressure on the forest by local communities (Savage and Giraldo 1990; Savage et al. 1990, 1996, 1997).

In addition to the studies of Cotton-top Tamarins in the field, there has been a major and comprehensive assessment of the remaining habitat within the historic distribution of the Cotton-top Tamarin in Colombia, along with surveys to assess population numbers remaining. This information has provided important insights into the long-term viability of this population given the current rate of habitat destruction.

Bibliography [top]

Barbosa, C., Fajardo-P., A., Giraldo, H. and Rodríguez-M., J. V. 1988. Evaluación del hábitat y status del mono tití de cabeza blanca, Saguinus oedipus Linnaeus, 1758, en Colombia. Unpublished final report of Status of Cotton-top Tamarin in Colombia project. INDERENA, Bogotá, Venezuela.

Cerquera, J. R. 1985. S.O.S for the cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus). Primate Conservation 6: 17-19.

Defler, T. R. 1994. La conservación de primates en Colombia. Trianea 5: 255-287.

Defler, T. R. 2004. Primates of Colombia. Conservation International, Washington, DC, Usa.

Defler, T. R. and Rodríguez-Mahecha, J. V. 2003. A reassessment of the present EN ? IUCN classification for Saguinus oedipus. IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group, Unpublished, Report.

Defler, T. R., Rodríguez-M., J. V. and Hernández-Camacho, J. I. 2003. Conservation priorities for Colombian primates. Primate Conservation 19: 10-18.

Eisenberg, J.F. 1989. Mammals of the Neotropics. The Northern Neotropics. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA and London, UK.

Groves, C. P. 1993. Order Primates. In: D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder (eds), Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, pp. 243-277. mithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, USA.

Groves, C. P. 2001. Primate taxonomy. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, USA.

Groves, C. P. 2005. Order Primates. In: D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder (eds), Mammal Species of the World, pp. 111-184. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Hanihara, T. and Natori, M. 1987. Preliminary analysis of numerical taxonomy of the genus Saguinus based on dental measurements. Primates 28(4): 517-523.

Hernández-Camacho, J. and Cooper, R. W. 1976. The nonhuman primates of Colombia. In: R. W. Thorington, Jr. and P. G. Heltne (eds), Neotropical Primates: Field Studies and Conservation, pp. 35-69. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, USA.

Hernández-Camacho, J. and Defler, T. R. 1989. Algunos aspectos de la conservación de primates no-humanos en Colombia. In: C. J. Saavedra, R. A. Mittermeier and I. B. Santos (eds), La Primatología en Latinoamerica, pp. 67-100. WWF-U.S., Washington, DC, USA.

Hershkovitz, P. 1977. Living New World monkeys (Platyrrhini), with an introduction to Primates. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA.

Mast, R. B., Rodríguez, J. V. and Mittermeier, R. A. 1993. The Colombian cotton-top tamarin in the wild. CRC Press, Inc., Oak Ridge, TN, USA.

Mittermeier, R. A. and Coimbra-Filho, A. F. 1981. Systematics: Species and subspecies. In: A. F. Coimbra-Filho and R. A. Mittermeier (eds), Ecology and Behavior of Neotropical Primates, Vol. 1, pp. 29-111. Academia Brasileira de Ciências, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Mittermeier, R. A., Rylands, A. B. and Coimbra-Filho, A. F. 1988. Systematics: species and subspecies - an update. In: R. A. Mittermeier, A. B. Rylands, A. F. Coimbra-Filho and G. A. B. da Fonseca (eds), Ecology and Behavior of Neotropical Primates, pp. 13-75. World Wildlife Fund, Washington, DC, USA.

Moore, A. J. and Cheverud, J. M. 1992. Systematics of the Saguinus oedipus group of the bare-faced tamarins: evidence from facial morphology. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 89: 73-84.

Neyman P. F. 1978. Aspects of the ecology and social organization of free-ranging cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) and the conservation status of the species. In: Kleiman, D.G. (ed.), The Biology and Conservation of the Callitrichidae, pp. 39-71. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC.

Rodríguez-Luna, E., Cortés-Ortiz, L., Mittermeier, R. A., Rylands, A. B., Wong-Reyes, G., Carrillo, E., Matamoros, Y., Nuñez, F. and Motta-Gill, J. 1996. Hacia un Plan de Acción para los Primates Mesoamericanos. Neotropical Primates 4: 9-23.

Rylands, A. B. 1993. The bare-face tamarins Saguinus oedipus oedipus and Saguinus oedipus geoffroyi: subspecies or species? Neotropical Primates 1(2): 4-5.

Rylands, A. B., Coimbra-Filho, A. F. and Mittermeier, R. A. 1993. Systematics, distributions, and some notes on the conservation status of the Callitrichidae. In: A. B. Rylands (ed.), Marmosets and Tamarins: Systematics, Behaviour and Ecology, pp. 11-77. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Savage, A. 1988. ?Proyecto Tití?: The reintroduction of cotton-top tamarins to a semi-natural environment and the development of conservation education programs in Colombia. AAZPA [American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums] Annual Conference.: 78-84.

Savage, A. 1990. The reproductive biology of the cotton top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus oedipus) un Colombia. Ph.D .Thesis, University of Wisconsin.

Savage, A. 1993. Tamarins, teens, and teamwork: An integrated approach to in situ conservation. AAZPA [American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums] Annual Conference Proceedings.: 106-108.

Savage, A. 1995. Proyecto Titi: Developing global support for local conservation. AZA [American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums] Annual Conference Proceedings.: 459-461.

Savage, A. 1996. The field training program of Proyecto Titi: Collaborative efforts to conserve species and their habitat in Colombia. AZA [American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums] Annual Conference Proceedings.: 311-313.

Savage, A. 1997. Proyecto Titi: Conservation of the cotton-top tamarin in Colombia. Conservationist Newsletter 2: 10-13.

Savage, A. and Giraldo, H. 1990. ?Proyecto Tití?: An effective conservation education program in Colombia. American Journal of Primatology 20: 229-230.

Savage, A., Giraldo, H. and Soto, L. 1997. Developing a conservation action program for the cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus). In: J. Wallis (ed.), Primate Conservation: The Role of Zoological Parks, pp. 97-111. American Society of Primatologists, Norman, Oklahoma.

Savage, A., Giraldo, H., LaRotta, C., Soto, L. H and Garcia, E. F. 2001. Conservation education efforts in Colombia: Cotton-top tamarins as ambassadors for habitat preservation. American Journal of Primatology 54(1): 56.

Savage, A., Giraldo, H., Soto, L. H. and Snowdon, C. T. 1996. Demography, group composition and dispersal in wild cotton-top tamarins. American Journal of Primatology 38: 85-100.

Savage, A., Miller, L. J., Mazak, B. and Giraldo, L. H. 2001. Long-term conservation efforts for cotton-top tamarins Saguinus oedipus in Colombia: Habitat assessment and opportunities for reforestation. pp. 495. Abstracts and Programme: The XVIIIth Congress of the International Primatological Society, Adelaide, Australia.

Savage, A., Snowdon, C. T. and Giraldo, H. 1990. ?Proyecto Tití?: A hands-on approach to conservation education in Colombia. AAZPA [American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums] Annual Conference Proceedings (1989).: 605-606.

Savage, A., Snowdon, C. T., Giraldo, H. L. and Soto, L. H. 1996. Parental care patterns and vigilance in wild cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus). In: M. A. Norconk, A. L. Rosenberger and P. A. Garber (eds), Adaptive Radiations of Neotropical Primates, pp. 197-199. Plenum Press, New York, USA.

Savage, A., Zirofsky, D. S., Soto, L. H, Giraldo, H. and Causado, J. 1996. Proyecto Tití: Developing alternatives to forest destruction. Primate Conservation 17: 127-130.

Skinner, C. 1991. Justification for reclassifying Geoffroy's tamarin from Saguinus oedipus geoffroyi to Saguinus geoffroyi. Primate Report 31: 77-83.

Citation: Savage, A. & Causado, J. 2008. Saguinus oedipus. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <>. Downloaded on 25 October 2014.
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