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 length: 21-26cm. Tail length: 33-40cm

Weight 300-450g

Gestation 6 months

Young 1-2

Life span Up to 13 years in the wild, around 20 years in captivity

What do I eat?

Cotton-top tamarins are omnivores, feeding on plants and other animals. They spend most of their day foraging for different food items such as fruit, nectar, leaves, insects, small vertebrates (such as small snakes and amphibians) and have been known to eat small birds.

Where do I live?

These animals are found in tropical rainforests, moist wetland and also within dry thorn forests in North West Colombia, South America.


Cotton-top tamarins are social animals.  They live in groups of males and females, but only the dominant male and female in the group will breed. There is no strict breeding season for these animals, and they can mate from the age of 18-24 months.

Newborn tamarins are carried around by the male, and are given to the female when they need to feed. After 3 weeks, young cotton top tamarins start to explore their surroundings; but they can still be carried around until 6-7 weeks of age, and are fully independent by 5 months.


Main predators of cotton-top tamarins include wild cats, snakes and birds of prey.

Cotton-top tamarins stay safe by living in groups of between 2-15 individuals, and all look around for danger to protect the group. If they spot a threat they will give out an alarm call and run to safety. Alarm calls given by cotton-top tamarins will also allow other animals nearby to be alerted to danger.


Habitat destruction is a major threat to cotton-top tamarins - loss of habitat is due to an increase in demand for timber, charcoal production, human settlements and land for agriculture. These animals are also caught and sold illegally as pets.

The cotton-top tamarin has been protected by law in Colombia since 1969, and exports have been banned since 1974. Even with this protection, their numbers have continued to dwindle.

Did you know?

Cotton-top tamarins are one of the most endangered primates in South America.

The oldest recorded cotton-top tamarin in captivity lived to be 24 years old.

Rather than risk exposure to potential threats when looking for water, cotton-top tamarins will get water by licking dew or rain water from leaves.

Researchers have found that cotton-top tamarins use 38 different sounds to communicate with each other.


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My! Such wonderful animals. Personally, I really enjoyed it. I found out about so many animals I didn't even know about! My children enjoyed it learning about animal adaptations!Ann, 20th June 2017