Stuffed monkeys and tree planting: the determined technique to avoid wasting marmosets from extermination within the Caribbean

Weighs about 500 grams and is the size of a squirrel. His imposing white mane earned him the name of the common marmoset. It lives only in the tropical forests of the Colombian Caribbean and is critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“We estimate there are around 7,000 bald marmosets left in Colombia,” he told Rosamira Guillén, executive director of the Tití Project Foundation, an NGO dedicated to the conservation of this primate.

As he explained, the main dangers for the white-headed monkey are “illegal hunting, wildlife trade and, above all, deforestation for livestock and mining”.

In addition, it is estimated that during the decades of the 1960s and 1970s, “more than 30,000 of these animals were sent to the United States for medical evaluation related to colon cancer,” Time said.

The disappearance of their natural habitat

A report by the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Biological Research estimates that only 8% of Colombia’s tropical dry forest is left as a natural habitat for the common tufted monkey. This forest is also “completely fragmented,” said Guillen. For this reason, from the Tití project, they point to the “creation of biological corridors” in order to connect the forest areas protected by the state and to facilitate the conservation of the species.

In 2015, the NGO created the “Los Titíes de San Juan” nature reserve in the municipality of San Juan Nepomuceno, which already covers 261 hectares to protect this little monkey. The last 45 acres were recently purchased thanks to an online solidarity campaign by the NGO Rainforest Trust, which raised $ 278,881 through crowdfunding platforms.

“The reserve is in a very strategic place as it is attached to a nature reserve, which increases the habitat of the monkeys,” explained Guillén.

Since bald marmosets are large fruit-eaters, they are also “important means of spreading seeds,” said the environmentalist. Although the project focuses on the common marmoset, there are hundreds of species that benefit from the preservation of the forest.

Forest restoration: a long-term project

“Preserving the white-headed tamarin and restoring the forest is a long-term process. It takes around 10 years of growth for the forest to be habitable for the monkey and between 20 and 25 years for it to mature, ”said Guillén.

It is for this reason that the NGO understands that the only way to preserve the bald monkey is to “rethink” and “engage society”, “create income alternatives to reduce communities’ need for use and exploitation”. Resources in an unsustainable way. “

One of the main axes of the project are “nature conservation agreements” with local farmers who “allocate part of their land for the restoration and maintenance of forests and in return receive support to make their land more productive, train and deliver”. They have already registered around 185 families in the area.

“We have a tree nursery in which we grow around 37 species of trees, which provide shelter and food for the species,” and which are then transplanted onto the farmers’ properties and in the reserve.

To preserve the white-headed tamarin, they cultivate and plant around 37 tree species that provide protection and food for the species.

They also devote a large part of their resources to education in schools in the area and others to the sustainable economic development of local communities.

For example, they train women to make bags and soft toys from recyclable materials that are marketed in international markets.

“The project has been very well received. People need alternatives. The key is to make natural resource conservation economically viable for local communities, ”said Guillén. He also stressed the importance of a “mutual commitment”.

In addition, he said it is easier for the neighbors to get involved when they see results. For example, it was found that in many fields the water sources became more stable through afforestation.

“As an organization, it is our policy to seek alliances with local authorities and the population,” he emphasized.

The effects of the peace process and the pandemic

One of the great paradoxes for Colombian environmentalists is that the 50-year military conflict with the FARC that encompassed the country favored the preservation of vast forest areas. The peace process that began in 2016 now gives biologists access, but “mining, livestock and other development projects have arrived that threaten the forest and its inhabitants,” said Guillén.

Illegal logging, which has steadily declined in Colombia, has since experienced a strong boom.

The coronavirus pandemic also affected the project, forcing the suspension of the entire educational and social aspect, in addition to economic complications.

“In times of crisis, donations are initially suspended,” said Guillén. They also found some demotivation among some members of the local community who, due to lack of resources, returned to logging or hunting wildlife to survive.