Category Archives: Education

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.

Come Find Me…

The Colobus monkey and the squirrel, wild pig, baboon, eagle and chameleon all danced and sang together amongst the mango trees, baobab and coconut palm. We could see smiles on their faces and sometimes some of them started to cry. This was all part of a performance by the children from the Aga Khan nursery school in Mombasa for their graduation ceremony! The play is based on the book ‘Come Find Me’ by Jacquelin Nazareth, which tells a funny story about the flora and fauna to be found in Diani forest. The colourful costumes of animals, flowers, fruits and trees reflected the characters from the Diani Forest and delighted the audience of hundreds: parents, sisters, brothers, friends and other students. Performing the story about protecting the environment was clearly as much fun for children as it was for the spectators and it is an innovative way for them to learn and teach others about the importance of looking after the forests and its inhabitants.

The children enjoy performing for their audience

The children enjoy performing for their audience

Aga Khan Nursery invited the executive director of the Colobus Trust, Eirik Jarl Trondsen, to attend the event as guest of honor to talk about the efforts to protect Diani Forest and most notably the Angolan Colobus. Eirik was very happy to give a small speech and he handed over the graduation certificates to the students. The Colobus Trust had a stand in the hall, where the volunteers explained what we do, and it was great to have so many people interested in our activities.

Eirik handing over the graduation certificates

Eirik handing over the graduation certificates

You can found more about the book ‘Come Find Me’ by Jacquelin Nazareth at www.fandangoduo.com

By Claire Deroy and Kennedy Liti and Cara Braund

Education at the Colobus Trust

A major part of what the Colobus Trust does is raise awareness through our educational program. On average 1,200   local school children from 33 different schools will visit the trust every year. In just the last two weeks alone, six school groups have visited the Colobus Trust. The program aims to teach the students of all ages about the various problems facing the wildlife in Diani (with particular focus on the monkeys) and what we do to reduce these problems or their effects. The information session is followed by an eco-tour that takes them round the rehabilitation cages, the nature trail and the tree nursery. The excursion is rounded off by some beach games by the sea.

It’s great to have the opportunity to encourage children to get enthusiastic about what we do here. Hopefully by educating them about the environment they will learn to interact with it in a more thoughtful manner and encourage the community at large to help conserve Diani and its furry inhabitants.

The Colobus Team

Jill’s time at the Trust

After four weeks at the Colobus Trust, it’s almost time for me to fly home to another UK winter. I’ve had a fantastic time here and have been encouraged by the dedication and passion of the team for the colobus monkey and the local ecology as a whole.

During my time here I have enjoyed building colobus bridges, giving eco-tours to tourists and local children, undertaking colobus checks in the local forest and completing the 2009 Monkey Census in Diani and Gongoni forests.

One of the most eye opening experiences has been undertaking de-snaring searches. During one visit we found 12 snares along a 2km transect! It is worrying to think that without the efforts of the trust each of those snares could have caught or injured an animal.

Kenya is a magical place and each day brings new experiences. Like so many before me, I think I might be hooked!

Jill,

Eco-volunteer

Hope comes to the Colobus Trust

On Wednesday the 28th of October we had a visit from the children of The Hope Academy in Diani.  The main aim of their visit was to educate the pupils about the different primate species found in the Diani Beach area and to highlight the conservation issues they face, particularly regarding the Colobus monkey.  The children are taught that these issues are largely due to human actions, such as cutting down their natural habit and keeping monkeys as pets.  They are also taught that other aspects of our lifestyle inadvertently have a negative impact on the primates such the electrical lines and road which run adjacent to the forest they live in, causing a large number of injuries and deaths to local primates.

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Above: Some of the pupils and teachers listening to John

To ensure to continued awareness and future survival of the Colobus we show the pupils what actions the Colobus Trust are doing to tackle these issues. We also demonstrate to them that by helping in small ways such as planting native trees they can have a positive impact on the future of the Colobus monkey.

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Above: Colobus staff with teachers and pupils from Hope Academy

We hope that the pupils found the visit rewarding and that they enjoyed their time at the Colobus Trust!

Kate

Eco-volounteer

A PLACE WORTH VISITING

Hi, it’s Eva- a Wildlife Clubs of Kenya student on attachment in Colobus Trust. This my second week in Colobus Trust and I am really excited by the marvelous activities carried out. Some of the activities I have participated in are tree trimming and also last Wednesday we rescued a monkey. I am also assisting in marketing department whereby we advertise in hotels within Diani, then we bring tourists for an eco-tour.

I am really enjoying my stay in Colobus Trust. All can come participate in this primate conservation centre for a better tomorrow.

Eva

Marketing Volunteer

Getting Cagey

Erica, our orphaned monkey here at the Colobus Trust, has been spending the vast majority of her two months here in the company of humans. Now that she is getting bigger and more independent it is important that she spends less time with humans and more time with monkeys.

As part of the process or her being released into the wild, Erica has been spending more time in the rehabilitation cages with our older rescued Sykes monkey, SF1. They get on very well and so far have been happy to spend a few hours or more in each other’s presence. They play, jumping around on the ropes and branches that are there as part of their enrichment, as well as learning how to groom.

Erica and SF1

Above: Erica and SF1 eating in the cage

Our eco-volunteer Becky has been working on Erica’s tree-climbing skills and ensuring that the orphan has confidence in her abilities so that she climbs higher and more independently. Becky is also finding ways of introducing Erica to the food that she would eat in the wild, such as neem fruits.

We will build up the time that Erica spends in the cage and in the trees over the next month or so, in order that she relies less on human contact. The whole process of her release is likely to take up to a year, after which she will hopefully be fully wild.

Keep checking the blog for more updates on Erica and SF1!

The Colobus Team

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

We’re all in this together

Staff and volunteers spent a morning in Mwakambe, a small local village, helping out with a community project. The Mwakambe Youth Group consists of 20 members and has two main aims: turning two sections of wasteland that have been abandoned for 20 years into an agro-business and a forest of native trees. Both projects will provide an income for the members of the youth group and their families.

Below: Rob (front right) working with the youth group

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A local NGO has agreed to donate fertilizer, seeds and saplings to cultivate plants such as bananas, mangos and vegetables. They have set a deadline for the youth group of 20th September to clear the land, so when we arrived they were all busy working in order to achieve this. We helped by slashing the long grass (which before they started work covered the majority of the plot) and cutting down small shrubs. The land, once cleared of denser vegetation, is then tilled using jembes. All this in the boiling hot sun means it’s very hard work and resulted in many blisters!

Below: We couldn’t resist documenting our injuries!

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We made a visit to the second site where many saplings have already been planted. We helped by bringing water and watering them. The forest, when mature, will provide an ideal local location for ecotourism.

Below: Becky checks the progress of an indigenous sapling

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We later joined the local group for some shade under a tree while the chairman explained more about the project and how we can help them. Peter then gave a motivational speech to the group members, as projects such as these can take a long time to come to fruition and can be frustrating for those involved.

The Colobus Trust looks forward to continuing to work alongside the Mwakambe community on this project to help them achieve their goals.

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