I had a great opportunity to fulfill a dream initiated twenty years ago during my master’s degree research. My master’s thesis involved studying certain behaviors in new world primates at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence. The Director of Research at the time and my advisor, Dr. Anne Savage, was in the early years of establishing a field site near Cartegena, Colombia studying the cotton-top tamarin in the wild.
Twenty years later, Dr. Savage’s field research and conservation efforts are going strong. Last weekend, I got a chance to see some of the behaviors that I had studied in captivity in the wild.
In addition to the field site, Dr. Savage’s conservation efforts focus on preserving the cotton-top’s habitat by improving the lives of the villagers who border her research area. Seeing the connection between the quality of life in the local village and the survival of a critically endangered species in the wild drove home for me the idea that all conservation is local. Although a scientist by training, it will be Dr. Savages’ humanitarian efforts that will have the most profound effect on preserving habitat and therefore, the cotton-top tamarin.
I will focus future posts on the cotton-top and the local conservation efforts. It is too much information to cover in one post. I plan on creating a slide show that will help students make the same conservation connections that I am making as an adult. The cotton-top is an incredibly charismatic teacher.