Developing effective conservation programs that positively impact the survival of a species while considering the needs of local communities is challenging. Here we present an overview of the conservation program developed by Proyecto Tití to integrate local communities in the conservation of Colombia's critically endangered primate, the cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus). Our comprehensive assessment of the threats effecting the long-term survival of the cotton-top tamarin allowed us to establish the primary components of our program. Proyecto Tití has three areas of emphasis: (1) scientific studies detailing the biology and long-term survival of the cotton-top tamarin, (2) conservation education programs to increase public awareness and conservation knowledge, and (3) community empowerment programs that demonstrate a valuable economic incentive to protecting wildlife and forested areas in Colombia. This integrated approach to conservation that involves local communities in activities that benefit individuals, as well as wildlife, has proven to be remarkably effective in protecting cotton-top tamarins and their forested habitat. Our bindes program, which uses small cook stoves made from clay, has demonstrated a marked reduction in the number of trees that have been harvested for firewood. Developing environmental entrepreneurs, who create products made from recycled plastic for sale in national and international markets, has had a significant impact in reducing the amount of plastic that has been littering the environment and threatening the health of wildlife, while creating a stable economic income for rural communities. Proyecto Tití has provided economic alternatives to local communities that have dramatically reduced the illegal capture of cotton-top tamarins and forest destruction in the region that has positively impacted the long-term survival of this critically endangered primate.
(c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.