efe-epaBy Hugo Penso Santa Catalina, Colombia

The campaign launched by a Colombian architect to preserve the habitat of the cotton-top tamarin, an endangered monkey found only in the Caribbean region of her country, has won international recognition and the support of the entertainment giant Disney.

Behind this cause is Rosamira Guillen, an environmentalist who designed a multifaceted project that includes the protection of the tropical forests where the cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) and another 800 species of plants and animals live, as well as programs to boost the economies of nearby communities.

Guillen was honored last month for the work she is doing with the annual prize awarded by the National Geographic Society and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which promote conservation campaigns.

"The Tamarin Project Foundation combines scientific field research and strategies to protect the rainforests by means of environmental education and community development projects that make conservation of the region's natural resources economically viable," Guillen told EFE at the nature reserve in Santa Catalina municipality of Bolivar province.

Those backing the project include Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom theme park, along with wildlife and biodiversity protection organizations in Colombia, the United States, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates.

In Colombia, the only country where this little monkey still exists, there are some 7,000 cotton-tops distributed across the Atlantico, Bolivar, Sucre and Cordoba provinces.

Guillen recalled that in the 1960s and 1970s, more than 30,000 of these animals were sent to the United States to be used for colon cancer research, which added to the ones exported to be sold as pets put the species in danger of extinction.

The Tamarin Project was started in 1985 in Coloso, a town in Sucre province, as a research study by American biologist Anne Savage, but due to the raging violence and constant threats from guerrilla groups in that area, she had to move to Santa Catalina.

At the same time another project was started in San Juan Nepuceno, a town in the Montes de Maria mountains, which rise between Bolivar and Sucre provinces.

Guillen, who got involved in the project when she was working as director of the Barranquilla zoo, noted that this work "is focused on the preservation of the cotton-top tamarin as a symbol of the Colombian Caribbean, the only place in the world that is still home to the few remaining monkeys of this species.