Cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus)

Cotton top tamarin

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Behind Marwell Hall at the top of the grassy bank.

Fast facts

Status Critically Endangered

Size Head-body: 21-26 cm; tail length: 33-44 cm

Weight 417 g

Gestation 183 days

Young 2

Life span 25 years

What do I eat?

Cotton-top tamarins are omnivores. They eat a varied diet which includes fruit, flowers, nectar, plant exudates (gums, sap and latex), and prey including frogs, snails, lizard, spiders and insects. These tamarins generally search for prey in the middle and lower canopy.

Where do I live?

This species is found only in north-western Colombia. They live in a variety of primary forests (which haven’t been logged or managed by people) as well as secondary forests (which have been disturbed), including humid forest and dry deciduous forest.


Female cotton-top tamarins typically give birth to one litter of twins every year. Tamarins live in family groups, generally of between two and eight individuals.  Usually, only one female in a group will breed. Other members of the group help to look after the young, helping to carry them and giving them food when they are being weaned and until they are completely independent.  Young cotton-top tamarins become independent by about 5 months of age.


Due to their small size, and the fact that they are active during the day, cotton-top tamarins are prey for many different predators. Their predators can include snakes, cats, and a variety of birds of prey.  Tamarins try to avoid predators by staying in thick vegetation in the lower layers of the forest, and by working as a group to look out for danger and alerting each other by using alarm calls. 


Cotton-top tamarins are seriously threatened by the destruction of their habitat. They are found in three protected areas, but even these areas have lost a significant amount of their forests. This species has been protected in Colombia since 1969 and they are listed on CITES Appendix I, which means that the trade in these animals or any of their parts is illegal.  Cotton-top tamarins used to be trapped in large numbers for the pet trade and to be used in medical research, but this was banned in 1974.

Did you know?

Tamarins are able to leap from tree trunk to tree trunk, gripping onto the tree bark with their claw-like nails.

When resting or sleeping, tamarins coil their long tail over their shoulder and along their back.

Groups of tamarins use contact calls to stay in touch with each other when they are moving through the forest.

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Autumn 2019 visit

We were thrilled with the way the zoo was laid out. Though we are pensioners we were able to get around quite comfortably. My daughter and her children are going to the New Forest next year, so we will visit and treat them here, as it is very educational as well as… Read full reviewPhilip, 25th October 2019