Category Archives: Habitat Restoration/Conservation

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!


Vervet Release 2012 – Update

Released vervets groomingOver the past few years, Colobus Conservation has rescued, rehabilitated and released numerous monkeys back to their family groups. Occasionally, we receive monkeys that can not be returned to their family groups, these are often ex-pets or individuals that have been orphaned. In these cases, the individuals enter long term rehabilitation and are gradually prepared for release as part of a troop made up of individuals with similar backgrounds.

Prior to release the monkeys, each member of this group was tested on their wild skills.  Each had to pass the test of climbing trees, forage for wild foods, and respond approprately to predators.  Only those individuals that were able to behaviour with the correct behaviours were chosen for release.

On 27 May 2012, released a troop of twelve vervet monkeys, who are being monitored for one year to enable us to gather a full understanding of factors effecting their survival. At four months post release, eleven of the twelve release monkeys continue to survive in the wild. Sadly, the youngest member of the troop died just two weeks after release – the exact causes of his death remains unknown but several factors are likely to have contributed. In addition to the eleven surviving monkeys, a wild adult male is slowly joining the troop. He has had to battle the alpha male for acceptance, and has received numerous wounds in the process. However, he now feeds with the troop, sleeps in a neighbouring tree and has even been seen mating with a lead female. The most exciting development is the imminent birth of the newest troop member. We have suspected for a few weeks now that ‘Face’, an adult female, is pregnant and in the last couple of weeks she has certainly ‘blossomed’. While we do not know when exactly she conceived we are certain she will give birth very soon.

Colobus Infant Reunited with Mom

Infant and Mother ReunitedAnother very young colobus infant came our way on September 1st, a Saturday evening. A white infant male was found on the ground at Diani Sea Resort as his ‘family’ went to their sleeping site. The infant was around two weeks old, cold, scared and tired. Importantly though, his tummy was full of food so we knew that he had very recently been with his mother and that she was caring for him appropriately. We were confident that his abandonment was a mistake but it was after dark and we had no time to organise a plan to get the infant back to the group where he belonged. Instead, he was taken back to Colobus Conservation, and with our experiences with Betsy, our famous hand reared infant colobus, we knew to give fresh water as well as goat’s milk and to keep him warm with a hot water bottle – all done under the watchful eye of Colobus Conservation’s Manager Andrea Donaldson and our Colobus Carer volunteer, Molly Parren. Infant and Mother Reunited

We returned to the hotel grounds bright and early at 6am on Sunday morning. hoping to re-connect him with his Mother and troop. We located the nearby troop who we knew had dropped the infant on Saturday evening, based on them sleeping in the tree directly above where we collected the infant. As the troop saw the rescue team approach with the infant, the alpha male swooped down, grabbed him and dragged him away by his tail, climbed a tree and dropped him again. Based on this reaction to the infant, the age and sex composition of the troop (there was no female of infant bearing age who didn’t already have a baby) and because we had not had a report of a dead female in the area, we then suspected that this troop may have ‘taken’ the infant from a neighbouring troop during an aggressive encounter. We began looking for a suitable, neighbouring troop – one with a lactating female but without a baby.

Infant and Mother ReunitedOn Monday morning, the Colobus Conservation Manager finally found a troop of colobus with a lactating female whose baby had not been seen since Friday afternoon. Unusually, the troop was in Waterlovers, the hotel next door to the one where our infant was found, but we were fairly sure it was the correct troop. The infant was brought from Colobus Conservation to Waterlovers and placed on a makuti roof under the tree where the suspected mother was sitting. We had not even been able to get him fully out of his blanket before the female ran down, scooped him up with his blanket and returned to the safety of the trees.

What we’ve been up to…

The past couple of weeks we have been working hard planting trees at several different plot sites. At each site we spend the first few days digging holes and then we plant saplings and water them. It is a very good time to be planting trees due to the rainy season. These trees will mainly serve as additional food sources for the Colobus monkeys and other monkey species, as well as contribute to forest growth in the region.

One day last week when we had finished tree planting for the day, we received an animal welfare call. We went to a local restaurant, African Pot, where a guest led us to a power line where a Colobus monkey had been electrocuted. As a new volunteer, this was the first time I had seen an electrocuted monkey and it was heartbreaking, especially since the Colobus is such a rare species and also because this kind of electrocution is preventable. Electrocution by power lines is a major issue because often the monkeys use them to cross the road or to other trees. Another problem is that telephone lines, which are harmless, are indistinguishable from the dangerous power lines. The eventual aim of the Colobus Trust is for the power lines in Diani to be completely insulated so that monkeys would not die when coming into contact with them. In the meantime, the Trust pursues short-term solutions. For example, this week we have been hard at work trimming trees near power lines, which makes it less likely that monkeys will come close to the power lines. It gets more intensive to tree-trim during the rainy season because of all the new growth on the trees! This week we also completely rebuilt a large Colobridge. Each bridge ensures that monkeys can safely cross the road and they are used thousands of times before they need replacing.

The rest of our time recently has been spent doing routine activities. During Colobus Checks on Mondays, we documented two troops of Colobus with a total of 25 monkeys, which is an impressive count. The baby Sykes and the baby Vervet are getting bigger every day and it is beginning to hurt when they nibble on our fingers.