Today is the Day of the Cotton-top Tamarin, a holiday in Colombia that includes family-friendly parades and colorful festivities, all to draw attention to the critically endangered monkey that lives exclusively in the country’s tropical forests.
I’ve devoted my life to the care and conservation of animals and have spent a great deal of time focused on saving cotton-top tamarins. Helping these creatures literally takes a village – so I’ve been involved in collaborative efforts with Proyecto Tití, a nonprofit organization in Colombia. For years, Cast Members from Disney’s Animal Kingdom have traveled to Colombia to support the conservation group in efforts that include field research, scientific assessments and community outreach.
Alejandra Aramburo and Jackie Buckley, keepers at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, recently returned from a visit where they worked with Proyecto Tití’s educators on their community education and engagement programs. These programs help reinforce national pride in the cotton-top tamarins, educate locals on the best ways to support the tamarins’ survival and build respect for the environment of the tropical forests where the animals live.
Jackie, who is part Colombian, told me she found it very rewarding to help native wildlife in a country that means so much to her and her family.
Both Alejandra and Jackie remarked on the kindness of the locals and the strong sense of community they felt, even in the smallest of towns. The experience of making a significant contribution to conservation and working with people they may never have met otherwise was life-changing for both of them.
“I was super-thankful for the opportunity,” Jackie said. “I feel like I’ve grown as a person, as a trainer and as a conservation educator…I want more people to experience this and to be able to tell more guests about it.”
Another way Proyecto Tití supports cotton-top tamarins is by helping develop sustainable programs to generate revenue for the community so that locals can reduce their dependency on forest products. For example, local artisans crochet eco-mochila purses, totes and bracelets from plastic bags that may otherwise end up littering the forest. These are sold online and at the Walt Disney World Resort, which is helping boost the economy of the locals who live near cotton-top tamarins. It’s also helping clean the forest of waste that could be harmful to all animals.
You can visit cotton-top tamarins on Discovery Island at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and learn more about them at DisneyAnimals.com.