Cottontop and White-handed Tamarins in Cartagena, Colombia

Hello all,

Last October 10 I was surprised to find a free-ranging mixed group of Cottontop Tamarin Saguinus oedipus and White-handed Tamarin Saguinus leucopus in the very small Parque Centenario right in the middle of the city of Cartagena, Colombia. They were clearly introduced there – there is no green corridor connecting the park to any other forested area, and S. leucopus is out of its natural range. There must have been about half a dozen tamarins, including some young that may be hybrids – I could see what looked like a mixed couple grooming each other (see photo). Although small, the park has many big trees and it wasn’t easy to get an idea of total numbers. They all looked healthy and well-fed, and were totally unafraid of humans. I spoke with one of the park-keepers and he told me they need to keep a constant eye for people trying to snatch them; sadly, there’s still a big black market for pet tamarins in Colombia. The keeper couldn’t tell me who or when had brought the tamarins into the park.

The tamarins share their tiny habitat with some very brightly-colored Red-tailed Squirrels Sciurus granatensis, at least four Brown-throated Three-toed Sloths Bradypus variegatus (including one young born in the park), and a few heavyweight Green Iguanas –I was surprised that the limited number of trees could keep all those leaf-eaters sufficiently fed.

Definitely worth a look if you visit Cartagena, something you should do in any case (beautiful town!).

Best, Ignacio.



  • Vladimir Dinets

    I was in that park in 2007; there were squirrels but no tamarins (I was on a rather steamy date and could’ve missed the sloths, but I’m sure I would’ve noticed the tamarins). And yes, the city is exceptionally charming even by Colombian standards.

  • Jon Hall

    Thanks Ignacio. Pretty sure they weren’t there when I was last in Catagena (probably around 2007). Great pictures! And I agree with Vladimir – Cartagena is one of my most favourite cities in the world.

  • mattinidaho

    I saw the tamarins, sloths and squirrels in Parque Centenario in 2008. I was in Cartagena for 3 weeks so had a lot of time to look.

    I also saw the cotton-top tamarins at Proyecto Titi’s nature reserve about an hour outside of Cartagena. This was in native habitat and there was a healthy population there. I do not believe the reserve is open to visits from the public, unfortunately.

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