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At the end of June 2008, Frostburg State University welcomed the addition of 12 cotton-top tamarins to a newly renovated lab space. The tamarins were generously donated to FSU by the University of Wisconsin, Madison in hopes of continuing the legacy of quality noninvasive research with this species that was begun by Dr. Charles T. Snowdon, his students, and collaborators. Frostburg State University is glad to be able to provide its students with the rare opportunity to work with this unique species.
Cotton-top tamarins are a very small New World monkey species found in the wild only in Columbia. They weigh between 1 and 1.5 pounds and are called “cotton-top” because of the “Einstein-like” hair on their heads. FSU’s tamarins were born in captivity and are housed in male-female pairs in large aviary-like enclosures that have been arranged with a variety of branches to simulate their natural habitat. Environmental enrichment is very important in the care of these animals, and each tamarin pair has toys, swings and foraging opportunities to keep them active. The care and well-being of these very special animals is of the utmost importance to FSU, and the colony is glad to have an excellent team of students and volunteers dedicated to the daily care of the tamarins.
Dr. Erica Hoy Kennedy of the Psychology Department directs the tamarin colony and noninvasive student research involving the behavior and problem-solving abilities of these animals. Dr. Kennedy has spent more than eight years studying the intelligence of a variety of primate species and is particularly looking forward to conducting research to add to our knowledge of tamarins. In addition, she believes that the tamarin colony will serve as a valuable opportunity for FSU students and local K-12 students to learn about animal behavior research. There are very few colleges and universities in the country that give undergraduates the chance to study the behavior of nonhuman primates, so this is an especially exciting opportunity for FSU. The addition of the tamarin colony has also allowed for the development of related courses. Dr. Kennedy is now teaching a new course titled “Animal Learning and Cognition,” which involves students conducting behavioral observations of the tamarins as part of a course project.
Another important goal of FSU’s tamarin colony is to increase students’ knowledge of conservation issues. Cotton-top tamarins are an endangered species, and sadly there are very few of them left in the wild, where their natural habitat is being lost to deforestation. One of Dr. Kennedy’s goals is to increase awareness of this species and of ways to help them in the wild. Conservation programs such as “Proyecto Titi” provide an avenue to assist cotton-top tamarins through education and financial contributions.
For More Information
If you would like to learn more about cotton-top tamarins or FSU’s colony, please contact Dr. Erica Kennedy.
Colony Director: Dr. Erica Kennedy
Department of Psychology
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, Maryland 21532-2303
Department Telephone: 301-687-4742