I am a zookeeper and veterinary nurse from the United States and work at the Los Angeles Zoo in California. As a zookeeper I work with many African primate species including Black and White Guereza Colobus. I wanted to volunteer at the Colobus Trust to understand the plight of the closely related Black and White Angolan Colobus. Conservation is something that I care about deeply and I have hopes that I will be able to bring more international attention to the Colobus Trust.
Arriving in Africa was a surreal experience and seeing the Colobus in the wild was unbelievable and incredibly exciting, I spent hours just sat watching them. The first few days I was here, I tried to learn as much as I could about the work of the Colobus Trust, finding out more about the tree nursery project and the Colobus Bridges (colobridges), helping in the vet clinic with the emergency welfare cases as well as sharing my knowledge on how to best care for captive primates. I was really enjoying myself, learning a lot about the cause and about myself.
At the end of my first week here, the Trust received an emergency call out late in the evening. While I did not attend the call personally, I helped the vet to prepare the clinic the best we could based on the limited information we had been given. When the patient arrived, an elderly female Colobus, my eyes where truly opened to the plight of this species and I saw things that will stay with me forever! The female was presented with numerous old injuries many of which I felt could not be compatible with a comfortable life, yet she had somehow healed and was living in this condition. In addition to these old injuries, she had also sustained numerous and very severe new injuries caused by electrocution. Unfortunately, due to her age and the extensive injuries she was unable to survive and died within minutes of reaching the on-site vet clinic.
Just a few days later the Colobus Trust, received three separate emergency call outs for electrocuted Colobus monkeys. Fortunately and thanks to the experience and knowledge of the animal welfare team, 2 out of 3 of these monkeys have survived. I was aware before I travelled to Kenya to volunteer for the Colobus Trust that electrocution of monkeys was a problem in the area, however, I never dreamt that in my short 2-week stay I would witness 5 cases of electrocution. I was saddened to realise that the rate at which these monkeys are being injured by live electricity cables, does not give them much hope for survival.
The Colobus Trust is working tirelessly to limit monkey electrocutions and is attacking the problem from two perspectives. Firstly they spend an entire day a week tree trimming (cutting back any branches that are within monkey jumping distance of the wires), while effective this is a short term measure and given the ever-expanding Diani human population more electricity cables are being installed and the Trust are finding it increasingly more difficult to maintain the trees. Secondly they are working in collaboration with K.P.L.C. to insulate as many of the cables as is possible, initially concentrating on the ‘hot spot’ areas, relying on donations from the public to help with the funding.
During my time at the Colobus Trust I was able to participate in many of the projects and I witnessed first hand the huge efforts being made to improve the survival rates and the quality of life for all the animals in Diani Beach. It has been a very inspiring experience and one that I will take home and remember forever.