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Animal Data > Cotton Top Tamarin

(Sanguinus oedipus)

Status Distribution Sexually Mature
Endangered S.E. Costa Rica to N.W. Colombia. 18 months
Number of Young Gestation Life Span
2 135 days 10 years

Tamarins inhabit deciduous tropical forest, living in groups of about 15 breeding pairs with young. Males and females are not easily distinguished by external, physical differences. Members of the group maintain contact with each other by means of scent marking, facial expressions and high pitched squeaks. Mutual grooming appears to help bond the group.

Cotton-top tamarins are active by day and feed on fruit, nectar, leaves, insects, small vertebrates and birds. Much of the day is spent foraging in leaves, tree-holes, and branches. They sleep in bushy vegetation and dense climber tangles.

Breeding takes place at any time of the year. The newborn offspring are carried around on the back of the male or the older offspring, and are handed back to the female for feeding. At about 21 days the young start to explore their surroundings but continue to ride on the back of older group members until 6 - 7 weeks old. They become completely independent at 5 months. Helping rear the offspring is very important for young adults to learn how to look after their own young.

Cotton-top tamarins are being threatened by habitat destruction. In the past they were thought to be carriers of Yellow Fever (which is not the case), for which they were persecuted. They were also very much at risk from collection for scientific research, but are now protected by law.

Main Features

Crest of long whitish hair from forehead, flowing over shoulders. Brown back and whitish arms, legs and underparts.

In Captivity

The cotton-top tamarins at Marwell are fed fresh fruit and vegetables and a specially formulated supplement. They are also encouraged to catch insects by including a variety of plants in their enclosure.

©2009 Marwell Wildlife