Category Archives: deforestation

Monkey-ing Around

I have been in Diani, volunteering for the Colobus Trust for four weeks and I am now finishing up what’s called a “pest assessment” for the Baobab resort and spa. The Baobab is a luxury resort which sits on top of a bluff overlooking the Indian Ocean. Looking out onto the Indian Ocean with its multitude of blues and emerging sand bars isn’t bad, but who needs that when you can watch monkeys? Monkeys being bad that is (and people too). Baboons, vervet, Sykes, and black and white Angolan colobus monkeys are the species seen at the resort, however the first three are the culprits of most of the misdeeds at the hotel, and the source of the management’s continuing headache.

The first three species mentioned above are considered “pests” by hotel management. They steal food from buffets, damage property, and can be aggressive toward guests. It was my task this month to see how the hotel can improve its monkey relations, and prevent monkeys from infiltrating key food areas like restaurant and buffet zones. This includes all sorts of things from inspecting door and window locks, to watching monkeys enter holes in rooftops and steal food from unsuspecting guests plates.

In my opinion it is because of this bad behavior, or mischievous behavior as I like to call it, that monkeys provide an endless source of entertainment for guests. Monkeys bring their daily drama onto hotel grounds for all to see, and most enjoy watching it unfold. Guests can choose from inter-group encounters in the tree tops, adult male dominance displays atop makuti roofs, or they can settle down with a drink to watch cute and cuddly infants playing around their mothers. To top it off, uniformed guards running with ever-ready slingshots provide the ultimate ending to the story. In short, monkeys provide the guests with the perfect combination of drama, thriller, comedy, and romance. But what happens next?

Hotel management is not as easily entertained. This is understandably so, as monkeys can cause extensive property damage, injure guests, and make intolerable messes. However, I usually ask myself the question, “who was here first?” Of course it was the monkeys, right? Wouldn’t you do the same thing if someone took your land, trees, and food sources away? I probably would. As humans have encroached on monkey habitat by building up the beach area, considerable forest zones have been eliminated. Thus, I think it’s our responsibility to find a solution which accommodates the species we have inadvertently displaced – even if they’re not particularly well liked.

So how can human primates (us) and non- human primates (them) co-exist peacefully? This is the ultimate question to which there is no one single ultimate answer.

A Baby in the Woods

In and amongst the busy days here it is necessary to clear your head. The nature trail seemed the perfect retreat. Half an acre of untamed Coral Rag forest at the back of our plot, we use it as an integral part of our tours and demonstrations to the local schools that come weekly for education at the Trust. It is dense with trees, mostly local but with some exotic, whose roots grow outward on the surface of the ground due to the layers of coral rock underneath the surface. This complex patchwork is rich with other types of flora and the wildlife that forms its habitat.

I ventured in, the first time I had been alone. Once inside, I could hear the sound of monkeys jumping all around me. As I turned a corner, two Colobus appeared only a few feet in front of me. I think they were as surprised as I was and took off! Further into the forest more Colobus appeared. Only this time they did not run, they held their ground proudly. Amongst this majestic throng sat the proud mother of a tiny white infant. Despite a five month gestation period, Colobus usually bear children only once every one or two years. Even then, infancy can be difficult. The snow-white babies are very dependant on their mothers to carry them around. The specific diet of the adults of at least two kilograms of leaves a day requires migration across their habitat. Due to the deforestation in Diani, this can lead troops into meeting and causes conflict. In situations like this babies can be dropped by their mothers in moments of panic, or they can be harmed by the aggressive adults of the other troop.

We were all very excited to hear the news of a new baby in the home troop, and the next day they gave us the honour of spending their time right outside the cottage. As we rushed out to catch a glimpse of the new young, Cara noticed something unusual about the mother carrying her child. In her arms was not one, but two infant Colobus. They lay still and peaceful against her, and we gazed up wondering about this miracle.

It is very rare for a Colobus to produce two offspring, and even more so in June when their usual time for child bearing is September to October. Our belief is that she was caring for two while the other mother had a chance to eat or rest. We are all so excited to have not just one new arrival but two! Needless to say, we will be keeping our eyes on the new mothers and their babies. Seeing these moments is touching, and often reminds me of how similar the relationships of the Colobus are to our own.

We will keep you informed!

P.S. We haven’t got any pictures of the babies as yet, but they are to come soon!

In the jungle, the mighty jungle…

On Wednesday afternoon staff and volunteers from the Colobus Trust completed a 3-day census of Colobus monkeys in the Gongoni Forest Reserve. WWF had given us a small amount of funding to conduct the census, which would use the Colobus monkey as an indicator of the quality of the forest. We had rangers from the Kenya Forest Service with us who were armed with rifles to protect us from buffalo, and locals with pangas (machetes) to help us navigate through the forest.

We were divided into three groups and given GPSs with a coordinate which we would attempt to follow down to the other edge of the forest in a straight line. The first day was extremely dense and thick because it was all secondary growth forest. Everyone battled their way through the undergrowth, sometimes crawling, and it took one group 2 hours to cover 1 km.  Some Colobus were seen but everyone was hoping for more!

The second day of the census was definitely not what we were expecting it to be. Immediately off the bat poaching camps and snares were found. The Gongoni Forest has become really thin due to illegal cutting, mostly by local poachers who chop down large trees and sell the wood for house-building or furniture-making. Whilst making their way through the woods, one of our teams came across a group of poachers who were in the middle of cutting up trees. The forest ranger with them told the team to be quiet and to get down. They waited whilst the ranger snuck up on the poachers and then shouted at them to put their hands above their head and get on the ground. One man escaped but the other was caught. The ranger marched him out off the forest along with the census team and they met up with another census team at the other end of the transect. Both of the rangers wanted to be the ones to bring the poacher in which meant that our census activities for the day came to an abrupt end. Both teams walked with the guards and the poacher to a meeting point where a police truck was going to come and pick them up. On the way, the guards spotted another poacher with an even larger bundle of wood. They sprinted after him and one of them fired a blank to scare the poacher. Before everyone knew it there were two poachers handcuffed and waiting under a tree to be picked up.

On the third day, some transects had to be modified in order to complete the census on time due to the fact that the poachers on the day before had set us back. Two teams completed two 3.5 km transects but one of these teams saw no monkeys at all! Far too many poaching camps and garages (where poachers chop the wood) were discovered. It was sad to realize how hard the Kenya Forest Service’s job is and how ineffective some methods may be at preventing poaching.

It was a relief for most to finish their last transects and escape the heat and humidity of the woods. Those days spent in the forest were difficult work! Making the way through lots of heavy bush, vines and thorny branches did not make travel very easy. Despite it all, the volunteers are happy that they had the experience but are thrilled to get back to normal days at the trust!

We’ll give you the results of our census as soon as we can!

Thanks for reading,

Hannah Follender

Eco-volunteer

And The Colobus Team

The tree nursery grows again…

As the rains enter full swing, the staff and volunteers at The Colobus Trust have been working hard to prepare the tree nursery for what is surely one of its busiest seasons. This week, Dougie and John took it upon themselves to start sorting through the various plants and trees which make up the nursery.

Visitors to the Trust are encouraged to purchase a tree which is then nurtured and finally planted in the Diani area as part of the trust’s general conservation work. Unfortunately, as tends to be the case in Kenya, a number of these trees die before they can be planted and it is necessary to continually plant more, in the full knowledge that only a small number of them will survive. Over the past few months, the number of trees in the nursery has fallen dramatically as they struggle to deal with the harsh climate and salted water in Diani.

Despite these problems, all the volunteers have now been involved in this project and the area is looking much better. We all hope that the new nursery will prove to be a hit with visitors and will be more inclined to purchase a tree in the future.

We hope the rains continue year upon year as our trees continue to grow!

Dougie

Eco-Volunteer

What a way to behave!

In the last few days we have stepped up our data gathering on the potential Vervet/Sykes hybrid.

For the past three days the Sykes troop with which the hybrid associates has been located on the old nature trail at Leopard Beach Resort and Spa, close to the hotel’s southern boundary.

The hybrid can be differentiated from the rest of the troop by several factors. Its fur is much more Vervet-like in colour than that of the Sykes. The most obvious difference is that unlike Sykes monkeys but in common with Vervets it has blue balls. There is also the fact that it just looks a bit strange that makes it stand out. He is also currently carrying a few injuries which make him more readily identifiable. He has a cut on its left shoulder which he can often be seen trying to lick, as well as an older injury on his right front leg. The injury on his leg appears to be painful as he does not put his full weight on it and so limps along a little. A male Sykes in the troop also has a couple of recent injuries to its right shoulder and leg. Whether this is just a coincidence or the result of a fight between the two we don’t know.

The hybrid is almost always found on his own and often on the periphery of the troop. Although other Sykes do move relatively close to him, the closest recent social interaction that has been observed is when the hybrid moved up to and sat next to an adult female Sykes. However she walked away almost immediately when he did this.

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Above: The hybrid at Leopard Beach

Due to the density of some of the low-level forest vegetation, maintaining visual contact and following the hybrid at times have proved to be challenging to say the least! Fortunately there appears to be a pattern with their movement over the last few days so it has often been possible to head them off at the pass, as it were. On a number of occasions the resort’s staff have also been very helpful in locating the hybrid when he has been out of sight.

Most of the observations recorded so far suggest that the main activities the hybrid engages in are grooming himself and resting. This may just be a result of the time the observations have been taken rather than due to other factors. Most primates indulge in the majority of their direct social interactions, such as grooming and playing, in the early morning and late afternoon. So far the recent observations have been taken from mid morning till about 1pm, this might explain the lack of social interactions between the hybrid and other members of the troop. Hopefully a couple of early morning starts will show if the hybrid does interact with any other monkeys.

The question is how did this potential hybrid arise? We think that the hybrid may be the result of greater interaction between the Vervets and Sykes caused by the continued reduction in the availability of suitable habitat for each troop. Further study is needed to reveal if this is indeed the case. For example, however, just yesterday the Sykes troop and a Vervet troop met up with each other on a grassy area in front of the resort’s Spa buildings. The two troops freely intermixed but only two cases of direct interaction were observed. A juvenile Vervet and a juvenile Sykes briefly approached each other and touched before walking away again and there was a small fight between a Vervet and Sykes. The Sykes troop is also often in proximity to a couple of different Colobus troops but no direct interaction has yet been seen.

At some stage we are planning to dart the hybrid so that we can take physical measurements and to obtain a DNA sample so that we can have a genetics test run. However because we are currently critically low on our resources required for darting, they are being reserved for welfare cases only at the moment.

Hope to give you more information soon!

Rob

Colobologist

Another loss for the fragile Colobus population

Our peaceful Saturday morning was interrupted by a call on our hotline. Diani Sea Resort was calling to report a dead juvenile Colobus monkey. We knew this wouldn’t be an easy call out, but nothing could quite prepare us for what was waiting at the scene. The juvenile was in fact a very young infant, its death a result of fighting between two troops on the premises. Our animal welfare officer John estimated the infant was around one week old, as its fur was still completely white and the remains of its umbilical cord were still present. The Colobus only carry a single offspring at a time (although a set of twins can occur on very rare occasions) and take four to six years to reach sexual maturity. Therefore to lose an infant after a six month gestation period is a big blow to any Colobus troop, but more so in Diani where the population is dangerously low.

The Infant Colobus

We were told by staff at the resort that intense fighting had occurred the previous day, with visible injuries to some of the adults. It is unclear at what stage and how the infant was killed, but it is likely that the mother continued to carry the infant after its death.

Increasingly fragmented habitats result in increased levels of stress in the species which live in them. Territorial disputes between rival Colobus troops are a natural occurrence; however the forest loss in Diani gives rise to a greater number of conflicts between the troops over the territory that remains.

To try and counter this, the Colobus Trust is working to create forest corridors for the Colobus and other native species to have better mobility between forest fragments.

More on this in another post!

Rob and Cara

Along came Polly…

Hi there, I am one of the new volunteers at the trust and my first week has certainly been busy. Spending only a week here has shown me just how diverse and important the work of The Colobus Trust is.

So far I have been involved in a variety of the many projects that the trust carries out to ensure that the endangered Colobus monkeys have a future. These projects have ranged from climbing trees to mend the damaged Colobridges or being called out to search for an injured colobus or walking through the ever depleting forest to search for native saplings to add to the unique Colobus Corridor – this will hopefully develop corridors of forest in between the forest patches so Colobus have areas to move safely in.

article-colobus-trust-02-08-09-004.jpg Polly watering the saplings collected

As I am a qualified teacher, I have also become interested in the environmental education work that the Colobus Trust carries out and with the help of Hamisi I hope to begin a new programme after the long school holidays. I will keep you updated on this!

In just a week I have realised the hard work that the Colobus Trust has ahead of it but I do believe with continued hard work from the staff and support from volunteers it is possible.

Polly

Volunteer

Take a walk on the wild side….

It began as a mere suggestion to create a nature trail involving eco-friendly hotels, through which visitors could get enriched with information regarding the Colobus monkey as they enjoyed a nature walk. The Nomads hotel, which still has a very rich forest patch in their premises, joined hands with the Colobus Trust not only to talk the walk but also to walk the talk of conserving the environment. The planning and implementation of this marvelous idea took four days.

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Above: Peter talks about the forest

This walk begins at the Nomads reception desk where one receives a warm welcome and gets guided professionally through the trail. During the walk one gets to see and learn about indigenous trees over a century old and most importantly come across the precious, almost extinct, Colobus monkeys. For bird lovers, this is the perfect place as well as a haven for other creatures such as millipedes (almost a foot long) and forest rodents. One gets furnished with information regarding primates, medicinal herbs and the coral forest.

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Above: an example of the tree labeling on the trail

This project will enhance knowledge and also appreciation of the unique flora and fauna of the visitors together with the residents. If we keep cutting trees and building more concrete structures, where will all the greens go? Where will we have nature walks and where will be the nature itself? Let’s join hands in this noble task of ensuring that we conserve our environment. How we conserve our environment today determines our future!

Thank you for visiting the Colobus blog!!

Peter

Field Officer

Injured Vervet – wound on hand from glass sugar jar.

 Capture

Peter, Sarah, Sam and Tom went to the location where the report of an injured Vervet monkey was reported. After looking around the grounds it seemed that a capture would be unsuccessful today. Either way, the gentleman who reported the incident offered them drinks for their troubles…… Then what do you know? The monkey arrives! The capture was a relatively easy one which involved luring the monkey into the cage with fruit! Once it was trapped, it was sedated and brought into the clinic.

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Treatment

Claire, Peter and Jody assessed the monkey on arrival. On examination, there were wounds visible on both arms and a major wound on the back of the right hand. All wounds were cleaned thoroughly by the team and Jody sutured the hand wound with dissolvable stitches. Claire gave antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and Tetanus injections intramuscularly. Iodine was applied to all wounds and the monkey was placed back in the cage to come round fully under observation. Once the monkey was awake water and food were then offered.

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After Care

Following the procedure, antibiotic injections were given for another day and the monkey’s progress was monitored.

Release

24 hours after the procedure, the monkey was taken back the location where it was captured. Here, he was released successfully and roamed his natural environment back where he belongs!

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All in all, it was a positive outcome for the monkey and team!

www.colobustrust.org

SafariLink press release. Colobus Trusts new corporate sponsor

The following article is the press release from Safarilink the new corporate sponsor of Colobus Trust. We at the trust would like to thank Safarilink for all there support and look forward to an amazing relationship. It is always inspiring when a company of this magnitude cares enough about the local environment and organizations dedicated to protecting it.

SafariLink Helps Protect Diani’s Primates

Nairobi, Kenya xx August 2009 – As part of its ongoing corporate social responsibility programme, SafariLink, Kenya’s premier safari airline, has announced that it will donate $2 to the Diani Beach based Colobus Trust for each passenger it flies into or out of the Diani airstrip.  In addition it has sponsored the purchase of a ‘tuk-tuk’ which will be used by the Trust to collect tourists from their hotels and take them to their headquarters where they will be able to learn about the Coast ecosystem and the work of the Trust. The airline, which commenced daily flights to Diani on the 1st July 2009, has taken the decision to assist the Trust which runs the primate conservation and rescue centre on the south coast of Kenya.

The Colobus Trust was founded in Diani in 1997, initially to come up with a way to prevent the high number of monkey ‘road kills’ on Diani Road.  Today, the Trust has expanded to become a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre, focusing on primates, with both Kenyan staff and international volunteers. The Colobus Trust also helps to educate local schoolchildren, gives guided eco-tours and provides a rehabilitation programme for monkeys that have been kept illegally as pets.

“The rapid growth in tourism infrastructure and growing human population in the area has had a significant negative impact on the remnants of a once large and rich coastal forest ecosystem and hence a decline in the primate population,’ said John Buckley, Managing Director, SafariLink Aviation.  “For more than ten years the Colobus Trust has been dedicated to the conservation and welfare of primates living in the Diani area.  SafariLink, as a socially responsible company, is therefore happy to help the Trust in order to help safeguard the environment for the remaining primates and hopefully thereby stop the decline in their numbers.”

In support of the donation, Raymond Matiba, Chairman of The Colobus Trust said, “75% of the Trusts core revenue comes from tourism.  But sadly the Kenya Coast has suffered a  decline in tourists in recent years and hence our income from visitors to the Trust has decreased.  We are therefore particularly delighted that SafariLink have made this very generous donation to the Trust and their pledge of long term financial support will help us plan for the future.”

“In addition, the introduction of the SafariLink daily flights to Diani is in itself a very positive move which we believe will result in an increase in tourists as well as being beneficial to the residents in the area,” added Matiba.

SafariLink is involved in other socially responsible initiatives that include an indigenous tree planting exercise on the foothills of Mount Kenya National Reserve in conjunction with the Bill Woodley Mount Kenya Trust.  This project aims to compensate for the carbon-dioxide emissions from their aircraft and hence minimize the company’s operational impact on the environment.  Additionally the company has an agreement with the Lewa Conservancy, www.lewa.org, whereby approximately 5% of the cost of each ticket to Lewa is donated to help their conservation research.  In addition, SafariLink assist the Safi Lamu group who are tidying up Lamu and provide flights for the charity Medical & Educational Aid to Kenya, www.meak.org, to help them reach disadvantaged persons in remote areas who need medical attention for heart and eye conditions.

-ENDS-

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About SafariLink

SafariLink is a Kenyan company established in 2004.  Based in the ALS Building, Wilson Airport, SafariLink offers a network of scheduled services that cover the main ‘safari’ tourist destinations of Amboseli, Tsavo, Chyulus, Naivasha, Nanyuki, Lewa Downs, Samburu, Loisaba, Shaba, Masai Mara, Kiwayu and Lamu in Kenya and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.  In addition, SafariLink can provide you with charter flight within Kenya and throughout East Africa.  SafariLink currently operates a fleet of Cessna Caravans, a Let 410 and Dash 8.

About The Colobus Trust

The Colobus Trust is a conservation organization designed to promote the conservation, preservation and protection of primates like the rare Angolan Colobus monkey (Colobus angolensis palliatus) and its coastal forest habitat in southern Kenya. The Trust was established in 1997 in response to an outcry from local residents about the high number of deaths of the Colobus in the Diani area. Now the Trust has numerous projects concerning the wildlife and the citizens of Kenya, including animal welfare, biological/ecological research, community development and education, forest protection and enrichment and eco-tourism awareness programs.