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Wildlife Wednesday: Cotton-top Tamarin Conservation Projects Earn Prestigious Award for Environmental Protection in Colombia!

Hola desde Colombia! Avid Disney Parks Blog readers may be familiar with the cotton-top tamarin pair that recently moved into a new home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. While the pair delights guests and enjoys their new home, they also serve as animal ambassadors for cotton-top tamarins that live in their native tropical forest home in Colombia. Members of Disney’s Animal Programs have been working with Proyecto Tití in Colombia on a long-term conservation program to protect Colombia’s critically endangered primate. For the past 20+ years, Proyecto Tití and Disney have worked together to not only study wild cotton-top tamarins in the forests of Colombia, but we have helped to develop education programs for rural communities to teach about the importance of protecting cotton-tops and their forest homes and, most importantly, working with communities to develop sustainable income-generating programs so that they can reduce their dependency on forest products. The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has also helped to support Proyecto Tití by helping to support the first conservation center dedicated to cotton-top tamarin conservation, awarding Felix Medina as a 2013 Conservation Hero, and providing emergency funding to help stop a fire that was spreading to the forests where our long-term field site is located earlier this year.

I am pleased to share exciting news on behalf of this organization that is so near and dear to my heart. Caracol, the largest television network in Colombia, recently announced the winners of their prize for Protecting the Environment in Colombia, and Proyecto Tití won first place!

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More than 90 organizations applied in two categories – programs led by local communities and those led by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). After selecting Proyecto Tití as one of five finalists, the expert selection committee visited the field site in Santa Catalina and had the opportunity to go into the forest to meet the cotton-tops for the first time in their lives! After their trip to the forest, the committee visited the community of Los Limites where they met the artisans that create the beautiful eco-mochilas and plush cotton-top tamarins toys. The artisans shared how they have been able to start their own businesses and how having a stable source of income has reduced the need to consume forest resources. The last stop for the judges was without a doubt the most impactful. It was when they met the students who have been part of the CARTITILLA, and other education efforts, that they really saw the difference that Proyecto Tití has made in Colombian communities. They couldn’t believe how passionate and dedicated the students are to protecting cotton-tops!

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At the awards ceremony, Felix Medina, a member of the Proyecto Tití team since it began, was overcome with emotion saying, “I remember how difficult it was when we first began working with cotton-tops, but we didn’t give up, we kept on moving forward and now our work has been recognized for its importance in saving cotton-tops. This is the best day for me and for cotton-tops!” Juan Manuael Beltran, Corporate Responsibility Advisor to Caracol shared, “There was no doubt who should win this award. Proyecto Titi’s long-term efforts to bring national and international attention to cotton-top tamarins, their education programs and their income generating programs for local communities, are a model for organizations to use in establishing conservation programs that are effective in Colombia …”

As part of the first place prize, Caracol will provide Proyecto Tití an amazing opportunity to share its story with their viewers and inspire everyone in Colombia to join us in saving cotton-top tamarins! I’ve studied these little monkeys for over 20 years. It brings me great joy to work with the Proyecto Tití team and share this exciting achievement with them!

Check out the photo gallery for more great photos from Colombia!