The Silvery-brown tamarin defies extinction
The Silvery-brown tamarin Saguinus leucopus known in Colombia as Tití Gris is endemic to the country but has been listed as an endangered species by the IUCN because its population has decreased over 50% in the past 3 generations (18 years) due to habitat loss, live capture and trade. Nonetheless it has survived and continues to fight extinction.
This tamarin only lives in Colombia but doesn’t occur in officially protected areas. They’ve adapted to degraded and fragmented habitats but their natural geographical area consists on the central region of the Andes between 0 to 1500 meters above sea level. Today they’re distributed in a 29,000 km area in the Tolima, Caldas, Antioquia, Córdoba, Sucre and Bolívar departments on the left side of the Magdalena river.
According to a Javeriana University study the forest distribution in the area where the tamarin lives has decreased about 85% and up to 80% of the native forest is currently under recovery. The region suffers huge habitat loss due to deforestation for cattle ranching, the building of infrastructure and urbanization.
For Thomas Defler, a biologist form Colombian National University the silvery-brown tamarin is mostly affected by human activities. Hunting is specially a threat because after captured the primates are sold as pets. According to the university’s Wild Animals Rescue and Rehabilitation Unit they’re one of the most trafficked species.
They’re smaller than domestic cats and weight just over a pound which makes them easy to transport. Plus, their silvery-brown hair and facial expressions makes them one of trafficker’s preferred species.
To fight their extinction since 2005 they are subject of a conservation program coordinated by the European Zoo and Aquarium Association (EAZA) and the Wildlife Conservation Society for the last 6 years.
It consists of an in-situ and ex-situ programs which focuses on producing scientific knowledge about the species and its habitat and a captivity reproduction program. They’ve created manuals for unifying the ex-situ management in zoos and rehab centers and education campaigns.
Also, WCS and the Colombian Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development are working on a National Conservation Program to follow up conservation efforts for the silvery-brown tamarin and learn more about their genetics and healthcare.