Colobus Conservation join Ivory Belongs to Elephant Campaign

Colobus Conservation staff and volunteers recently had the fabulous opportunity to walk alongside Jim Nyamu, executive director of the Elephant Neighbours Center in Nairobi, Kenya to raise awareness of the need to conserve elephants and their habitats. Volunteer researcher, Luke Berman, gives his account of the day.

Jim has been walking for elephants for over 3 years and in that time has racked up a fair few miles in different countries around the world. This includes a 50 day walk of 1000 miles through Kenya and a 510 mile walk from Boston to Washington D.C. in America. His latest walk is from the south coast to the north coast of Kenya, an impressive 375km over 15 days.


The day started in the county capital Kwale where there were local schools singing songs and reciting poems about the need to conserve elephants. Speeches then followed from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the county commissioner and Jim who at one point said “if we don’t act now future conservationists will only be able to be managers of Mosquitoes.”  With that over we got under way around 10am with the sky’s looking grey, but the people looking full of optimism. Starting the walk


Sure enough within an hour we had some rain, but nothing toos campaign. After walking (and partly driving) for three hours we reached the main road to Ukunda (large local town) where we grew in number and marched on to the center. This time the rain came down hard, but we whipped out the rain gear (if we had it) and soldiered on; nothing was going to bring our spirits down. Walking in the rain


CC staf and volunteers walking with Jim


After walking for the better part of an hour we reached the main town center with cars and motorbikes hooting and carried on to the WWF Kenya office. There we were welcomed by a short play from a local theatre school about the penalties of poaching elephants, some closing speeches and a round of applause. This concluded the main part of the day so Jim, his team and we took shelter in the office and I got to find out more about the man behind the walks. 

Addressing the public

Q. What got you interested in starting this movement to save elephants?


A.“I have worked with elephants for over 17 years, first working as a research scientist with the KWS and then heading up the elephant programmes with the African Conservation Center. I decided to resign in 2011 to dedicate myself to walking and raising awareness of the plight of elephants.”


I only realised after hearing Jim speak that we could loose elephants in Kenya in as little as ten years. One elephant is killed around the world every 15 minutes.


Q. What are your aims for this walk?


A. “I have three main aims I wish to achieve:

1. Raise awareness of the effects of elephant poaching not only on elephants, but the wider environment like the effect to the habitats.

2. Raise awareness of the new wildlife act in Kenya which means if you are found with ivory on your property, regardless as to how it got there, you face life imprisonment or 20 million Ksh fine.

3. To engage the local communities and schools in the importance of conservation for the future.”


Q. How do you feel today has gone in terms of achieving those aims?


A. “I am very impressed with how today has gone and feel it is the best start to any walk I have ever done. When I started walking in 2011 I only had a handful of people with me, today I believe I have interacted with over 1000 people, 17 schools joined us and hundreds walked. The children’s reactions and enjoyment was obvious and very delightful to see. People already believe in protecting and saving the elephants for our future.”


Q. Dare I ask what is next once this walk is finished?


A. “Another walk of course. Next month I am walking in Kenya from Nanyuki to Nyahururu, a distance of 201km. Then in July I am going back to the USA to do an 800 mile walk across California. I have chosen America as I feel they need to know about the plight of the elephants in Kenya and to correct current misconceptions. For example, did you know a lot of people believe you can harvest elephant tusks like deer antlers, where they simply fall off at the end of a season? People just don’t realise you have to kill the elephant to get the tusks. Also, I am planning to come to London, England later in the year to do my first walk there; I hope to see you.”


With that I left knowing Jim will be out again tomorrow and the next day and the next simply walking and talking about why we must protect elephants, not simply because we enjoy looking at them, but as the most powerful species on this planet we have a responsibility to look after the rest. Without nature we are nothing.


Walking until elephants are saved

Credit to Jim Nyamu and his media team for the photo


Clean up at Shimba Hills National Park .

On April 6th 2014, Colobus Conservation volunteers and staff joined the Shimba Support Group (SSG) at Shimba Hills National Reserve, Kenya, to help with a clean-up.

There were four of us from Colobus Conservation that were joining SSG and we were very excited. Not about picking up the rubbish, although it is good to do so, but the fact we could possibly see Elephants, Sable Antelope, Giraffe and if we were unbelievably incredibly ridiculously lucky a Leopard.

Bernard, the Treasurer of SSG, picked us up at 7.30am in his air conditioned Range Rover (Oh My God air conditioning) and off we went for the 45 minute drive. It was very comfortable and a pleasant change to be cool and not sweating. Driving through Ukunda (local town) and the other villages was a new experience in itself. It was fascinating seeing everyone going about their daily business, and the general hubbub of the area.


We were all experiencing childlike excitement on reaching the gate of Shimba Hills, the terrain was much different from what we were used to; like we were going into Jurassic Park. Bernard had warned us that due to the thick bush like terrain it is not likely that we would see much, if anything. But not more than 5 minutes in and what happens, we spot 3 elephants, 15 metres away and walking towards us. I was so excited and started snapping away to make sure I could remember this moment and share it with everyone who wasn’t there. There were three youngish elephants and they moved with purpose towards us, but they wanted the water (not us thankfully). They splashed the water and mud on their body’s and then within a few minutes had disappeared into the bush never to be seen again. Safe to say we were now buzzing and wondering what else we would see.LR Young elephant having a mud bath


We arrived at our rendezvous point and met the other people (mainly ex-pats and staff from a local community project) and then got a briefing for the day. Minibuses took us to the starting point and we began picking up what rubbish we could find. It was quite a privilege to be walking through a National Reserve as it is not normally allowed, to be more specific it was the public road that cars/buses use to go to Nairobi (but still technically in the park). About fifteen minutes into the litter pick the heavens opened and we got absolutely soaked. As this was an open road there were not really any trees around so we just had to take it. Once the rain had moved on the glorious sun came out and it wasn’t long before we were dry again.


LR Group shot with our ranger


It took us just over 2 hours to complete the section we were instructed to sweep and that brought us back to the main gate; our starting point. Everyone else was already there, including another group that did the other direction with a local school group. The amount of rubbish we all collected was impressive and it was nice to know it was all going to be recycled and disposed of properly, for example the plastic bottles were going to a community project where they use them to build bottle benches. We took a group photo then found a nice spot in the Reserve for a lunch. After an hour or so we went our separate ways and ours just happened to be a trip around the park, thanks to Bernard.


LR Final group shot


Unfortunately, seeing the elephant’s right at the beginning had raised our expectations. We did see a small antelope called a Dik-Dik, with a small bright white tail and a bound in its step that would put Usain Bolt to shame, and a large group of baboons. The views from some of the stopping points were breathtaking and it was peacefully quiet and a nice change of scenery.

LR Yellow baboon group


This rounded up our clean-up day in Shimba Hills Nature Reserve and not only did we feel we had done our part in making the reserve a better place; we saw ELEPHANTS!


Volunteer as a Field Researcher .

Colobus Conservation, is launching a new research project to investigate home range sizes and levels of aggression between Angolan colobus inhabiting overlapping areas, with comparisons between heavily degraded, semi-degraded and good habitat types.

 One research assistant, for each habitat type (3 researchers in total) is required to collect comparative and baseline data. The study troops have already been selected, some have been habituated and all are waiting for dedicated volunteers to collect data.

Colobus in a tree

Luke is our current field researcher here at Colobus Conservation researching the three troops of colobus monkeys located closest to our base. He is here for six months and daily he record what food colobus eat, group dynamics, and interactions with other colobus and primate groups as well as responses to predators. The more we can understand about this arboreal species, the more we can do to make sure they are protected and have a safe home.


Field researcher Luke

Being a field researcher means having to be up at the crack of dawn to find the monkey’s before they set off for the day, and staying out until it gets dark to see where they sleep. As you can see Luke enjoys his work and especially as today is a bit cooler, only 28 degrees.


Would you like to gain experience in field research and help us learn more about the different primate species that live in Diani? Follow this link to learn more – Volunteer as a primate field researcher

Making New Friends .

On the morning of January 24th we were alerted to a welfare case near Indian Ocean Resort. Upon arrival we were given a metal crate with a month old male vervet infant inside and then taken to an adult female vervet, the infant’s mother, who sadly was already dead.

Both animals were brought back to the site where the mother was given a post mortem and the infant given a full medical assessment by our vet. He was then bundled up tightly in some old sheets to stop him wriggling around too much – earning him his name, Burrito.

As facebook friends of Colobus Conservation might already be aware, following the post mortem examination of Burrito’s mother it became apparent that she was poisoned. As standard procedure we kept him in a 48 hour quarantine from our other orphans but also kept a close eye on him for signs of potential poisoning – any poisons the mother had ingested could have been passed on to him via her milk. Over his first few days he remained healthy and things are looking good for him so far.

Burrito is a very independent and developed infant! Unlike many orphans, he is sleeping through the night without crying and he is eating well during the day, though he will only tolerate being held by people if he is being fed or if very sleepy. Limiting his attachment to humans can only be a good thing as it will improve his chances of being successful in the wild when he is reintroduced. Nevertheless, because he is a baby monkey he needs contact and warmth from something. As he was not being regularly held by his carers we were keen to introduce him to the other orphans as soon as possible.

There are many considerations and often risks when introducing unfamiliar wild animals so we were sure to keep a close eye on Burrito when he first met our other orphans, Yam, Turk and Izzie. We introduced Burrito to each one individually and were delighted to see them all get on. Burrito is especially fond of our other male vervet orphan, Turk, and when they first met they immediately started playing. So far, all four orphans are getting on well together – cuddling and playing in their pen. As Burrito is a little younger than the rest he gets fed separately but is always welcomed back by lots of kisses as the others lick up the messy porridge left around his mouth!Burrito and Izzy blog picture







Births, deaths and injuries at Colobus Conservation .

Colobus Conservation’s wild colobus home troop have had a very eventful few days encompassing a takeover attempt, births, deaths and injuries.

Hugos face

Late last week and over the weekend a lone adult male was seen challenging Hugo, the alpha male of our colobus home troop, for the alpha position, this confrontation resulted in a lot of frantic chasing and has left Hugo with open wounds to his face and damage to his hand. The lone male has not been seen for a number of days now, so we believe Hugo successfully defend his troop.

Our research team speculate that the attempted take over was the motivation for the troop to cross the busy Diani highway directly outside of Colobus Conservation on Sunday afternoon – something that has never before been documented in 3 years of research on this troop. Unfortunately the troop’s inexperience of crossing the road had irreversible consequences as Elliot (a large juvenile male born in 2011) and Kifungu (a juvenile male born in 2012) were both hit by cars half an hour apart. Elliot’s injuries to his lungs were too severe for him to recover and sadly he passed away in our vet clinic. Kifungu however was hit on the side of his body and luckily did not suffer any broken bones or internal injuries, so he was placed in an enclosure to rest and overcome the shock for 24 hours, while we monitored his recovery.


After being assessed by our vet on Monday morning and seeing that he had begun moving fluently again, Kifungu was taken to the troop to be released. Once he was out of the enclosure and on the ground however it became apparent that he was still not 100% and was struggling to leap between the trees. As the troop moved on, Kifungu could not keep up and was being left behind. Although our rescue team tried to get him back into our care to give him more time to rest safely he was too agile and we could not re-capture him. Kifungu was monitored by our researcher for the rest of the day and evening. By the time it was dark Kifungu was left alone, completely separated from the troop, but safe in the dense foliage of a tree.


At sunrise ourElewa and infant researcher returned to where Kifungu had been left the previous night, but he had moved and as it is incredibly difficult to find one lone and very well camouflaged monkey, he could not be found. After another sweep of their range by all of our volunteers he was finally located, back with the troop! With Kifungu looking comfortable, reconnected with his troop and moving well our researcher continued on with her usual research work only to quickly realise that there was another unexpected arrival in the troop, a bright white new baby! The infant, born on Monday night, is the third born to Elewa, an adult female who we have been uncertain whether she was pregnant or not for some time now. In a bittersweet ending, Elewa was the mother of Elliot who was killed by the Matatu on Sunday evening.


An eventful weekend for our home troop who although sad to have lost Elliot, have successfully defended and kept their alpha, been reunited with Kifungu, and now have a brand new baby in the troop.

Clicker Training Betsy, a pre-release Angolan colobus monkey .

With each new carer or researcher that comes to Colobus Conservation to help with the rehabilitation and release of our hand reared monkeys, come a wave of new ideas on how situations can be improved or new things we can try. Often the suggestions have been tried before or more frequently they are used at a specific point of the individuals’ rehabilitation and not as a daily event. However, when Johanna Olsson, Betsy’s new release coordinator, arrived in December she made a suggestion that was unique, had not been tried before and after just four weeks of implementation appears to be making an extraordinary change to Betsy’s behaviour.

Clicker trainingBetsy clicker training

Clicker training uses a clicker, and a reward. For Betsy the clicker is the lid of a jam jar, and the reward is a peanut. You may have heard of Pavlov’s dogs; every time food was presented a bell was rung. Eventually the bell would ring, and the dogs, having been classically conditioned, would salivate in response to the bell without the presence of food. Clicker training is a similar concept but instead of a bell, it is a click.

Step one of the training with Betsy started by creating an association between the click and the peanut. Give a peanut, and click simultaneously. Step two: click, wait, and then peanut. Step three: when Betsy is out of the enclosure at forest school and she is behaving in a desirable way, click and then reward with a peanut. The idea is that the click causes Betsy to feel positive thereby making it more likely for her to, for example, spend time in trees, foraging and ignoring people.

Why is clicker training required with Betsy?

When Johanna started, Betsy was spending a lot of time on the ground, a lot of time seeking mischief and was rewarded with human attention due to the commotion she had caused. Of course primates being rather smart, Betsy being a fan of these games. Clicker training turns the game upside down, good behaviours are rewarded, while bad ones are ignored or discouraged. Obviously you can reward a behaviour with just a peanut, this wouldn’t necessarily require the clicker. The clicker, acts as a marker for the exact moment the good behaviour is performed, thereby communicating that the current action is good and then the reward can come later.

What do we hope to achieve?

We are hoping that Betsy will begin to actively seek out trees to sleep in and forage more independently. The clicker will also be utilised to reward any form of interaction with wild colobus, maybe helping to integrate her into a troop and one day herself, become wild again. So far, there have been huge improvements. It is a long way off from being perfect but things are definitely going in the right direction. Hopefully over time, and with the addition of target training (see below) we will continue to see progress, building on the positive steps that have been put in place and see great things to come.

What is target training?

In the future we hope to begin target training with Betsy. Target training is teaching an animal to come towards, touch or stay by an object such as, in this case a stick with a golf ball on one end. This acts as a point of focus or ‘target’ which the animal learns to follow. This is taught using the clicker, every time Betsy touches the target; she receives a click and then a reward.

How can target training be used?

Target training can be useful in guiding an animal from one point to another, although usually only utilised in zoo and laboratory animals, in the context of wildlife rehabilitation we will use the target to encourage time spent high up in trees foraging. Another benefit is that it may reduce the need for human contact when manoeuvring Betsy from one spot to another. This may reduce stress by allowing for clearer communication, eventually resulting in the learned behaviour becoming habitual as oppose to dependant on physical cues and rewards.

Franky the vervet is injured again!

Any long-term supporters might remember, Franky Four Fingers (a wild adult male vervet monkey who has integrated into our vervet release troop) who survived a car accident just outside of Colobus Conservation a few months ago. On Sunday the tragedy continued for him as we were called to help a vervet who had been attacked by a baboon at the house next door to our head quarters.

Franky with his injuries before being treated

Trapped on a roof and unable to climb down, the only way to ensure we could capture him safely was to take our rescue team up onto the house roof, net and sedate him up there before carrying him down, while the rest of the vervet troop kept a very close eye on us.

Once in the vet clinic we could see the full extent of the damage. He had a number of deep cuts through the muscle in his arms, legs and chest very close to his lungs. Our volunteer vet Marta, along with three assistants, worked for four hours to clean him up, stitch the muscles and skin back together, and dress all of the wounds. Although lucky that the wounds did not puncture any organs, there is potential nerve damage to his left leg – something we will only see the full effects of once he has begun to recover.

Franky is a wild male who joined our release vervet troop just over a year ago. He has always been somewhat of an outsider, and his occasional inappropriate social behaviour, such as aggression towards infants and excessive alarm calling, is believed to be the reason why he has not become a fully integrated troop member. Although we do not know the situation surrounding his attack we suspect that if for example, there was competition for food or aggression between the baboons, then a badly placed social move on Franky’s behalf at this time may have triggered the attack as a reprimand.

He is currently recovering in our vet clinic and is being closely monitored by our team. He will have his dressing changed in a couple of days and has everyone at Colobus Conservation on board to ensure that he makes a full recovery.

Franky, stitched up and bandaged following a baboon attack

Help Colobus Conservation save a female colobus monkey and her infant .

On Sunday 3rd November Colobus Conservation was called to assist an adult Angolan colobus monkey that had been hit by a car within the Diani area. Up on arrival at the incident it quickly became apparent that a small white colobus infant was also involved. Both monkey’s were brought back to Colobus Conservation’s vet facility to receive treatment.

The adult female and the infant’s mother, has extensive injuries that have left her paralysed on the right hand side of her body. She is undergoing intensive treatment and care as Colobus Conservation veterinary and care team do everything they can to aid her recovery so she can continue to care for her infant.

While her medical care is intensive the most expensive outlay in her recovery is her diet. Due to her condition she is unable to eat an adequate quantity of ‘free’ and wild growing leaves, therefore her diet is being supplemented with a product called ‘Critical Care for Herbivores’. She requires one bag per day at a cost of £13 per bag and to further complicate matters this product is not available within Kenya and will have to be shipped in from Europe.

Fortunately, the four week old infant male was physically unharmed in the incident and therefore, while his mother undergoes her life saving treatment the infant is being cared for by our expert colobus care team with the assistance of Betsy, a three year old, previously hand reared colobus monkey.

Two road accidents cause upset in our vervet release troop .

On Tuesday 10th September, Franky Four Fingers, a wild adult male that has joined our vervet release troop, was hit by a car while crossing the main road in front of our headquarters. For the next two days he was visibly suffering from the blow, struggling to coordinate his movement and regularly vomiting, both common signs of a concussion.

Frankie before the accidentTwo days later he disappeared and wasn’t spotted with the troop and after a few tense days we assumed the worst but anticipated some interesting developments in the troop; after the death of the troop’s Alpha male at the beginning of this year, Franky had appeared to be the dominant male in the troop, regularly asserting his dominance over the other troop members, especially and surprisingly over the largest male, Al (a second wild male that has joined the troop).

On the Friday of that week Al was heard to be alarm-calling and making submissive vocalisations in a plot adjacent to the Colobus Conservation site, noises which he regularly made when approached by Franky. Although our curiosity was piqued, it wasn’t until Franky was spotted on site that we fully understood what was going on. We were all very pleased but surprised, and although he looked much thinner than he had been, he looked well and the majority of the troop seemed eager to approach and investigate him in his position high up a tree.


Upon coming to ground, however, Franky was approached by Al and we were shocked to observe a striking switch in roles – whereas normally Al cowers and makes submissive vocalisations when approached by Franky, it was Franky who cowered when approached by Al! Observing this weakness, Al acted on it and struck Franky, who reacted violently and Al’s face was slashed open in the brawl.

This ongoing drama of dominance battles was sadly interrupted by the untimely death of Al after also being hit by a speeding car just three days later. Franky still appears weak and has yet to fully reintegrate with the troop and another male, Broken Arm, appears to be taking advantage of his absence by assuming a dominant role within the troop. We will keep you posted on how this exciting situation unfolds over the next few weeks!

Colobus Conservation Climbs Mount Kenya .

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough to keep Lisa and Eduardo from helping the colobus!

At the end of July 2013 Lisa Owen, a long term volunteer colobus carer at Colobus Conservation, and Eduardo Bucio are climbing Mount Kenya to help raise funds to ensure the continued rehabilitation and release programme for our orphaned colobus monkeys. Lisa and Eduardo begin the ascent of the second largest mountain in Africa on the 27th July and it will take them a gruelling 4 days to reach the summit.

Lisa Climbs Mount Kenya

As many of our long term supporters will be aware Colobus Conservation is the only organisation to successfully hand-rear an orphaned Angolan black and white colobus monkey in a zoo or sanctuary setting worldwide – Betsy is now two and a half years old. Tumbo is a second, 18 month old juvenile who was abandoned at six months old and together they are being prepared for release back in to the wild by integrating them both into our wild home troop. This is brand new work and as a colobus of this species has never been successfully hand-reared before, this type of release has not previously occurred with this species.

Betsy and Tumbo sharing a seed pod

To continue this ground breaking work in colobus conservation funding is required. Any money donated to support Lisa and Eduardo’s mountain climb will go directly to the colobus release programme contributing to feeding, housing and training for the colobus pre-release and radio collars to assist monitoring and research post release. The cost associated with climbing Mount Kenya is being paid for personally by Lisa and Eduardo.