Category Archives: Education

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.

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.

Colobridges for Primate Conservation .

Colobus Conservation’s ‘colobridges’ are a well known sight along the Diani highway providing safe, canopy level passage over the road for the resident monkeys.

In 1965, the existing dirt road through Diani Beach was sealed to provide better access to this popular tourist destination and by 2011 daily traffic volume exceeded 3000 vehicles. Colobus Conservation was formed in 1996 to address the issue of monkeys being hit by cars on the Diani Beach road. In 1997, the first colobridge, a simple construction of rope and wooden rungs, was installed at a mortality hotspot. By 2010, twenty-eight bridges had been erected.


Two studies, surveying all colobridges, have been conducted, the first in 2004 and the second in 2011, with the aim of assessing the level of use of the colobridges. Each bridge was observed for two 12-hour days from 6am – 6pm incorporating almost all the daylight hours. Using an example of Sykes monkeys on the Mitton Bridge (located at the old Colobus Trust site), the studies show that bridge use between 2004 and 2011 increased dramatically by 76% while road crossings in the area beneath the bridge decreased by 175%. There was no significant difference in population size of the Sykes monkey between the two studies (725:2004; 735:2011).


Table 1. Syke’s monkeys total crossing counts for two 12-hour days on one bridge in Diani Beach


Location of crossing 2004 2011
Bridge 34 143
Road 44 16
Total 78 159


The Mitton Bridge was erected in 2000 immediately after two incidences of road deaths occurred in that location. Three more incidences occurred within two years of the colobridge being installed. In the ten years after that (2002-2012), only one incident has been recorded.


All else being equal, these studies suggest that annually, crossings via bridge and road by Sykes monkeys at the Mitton Bridge, increased from about 14,000 to 29,000 of which bridge crossings accounted for about 6,000 in 2004 and 26,000 in 2011. While traffic under the bridge increased by 17% during this time, rate of injury or mortality in that area remained at almost zero.


However, between 1999 and 2012, despite numerous colobridges being in place 518 monkeys were recorded as injured or killed by vehicles on the Diani Beach road. Colobridges reduce the risk of crossing roads to monkeys but risk is still present. To help reduce further the number of monkeys (and people) injured or killed on the Diani Beach road it is important that drivers observe the 50kph speed limit and slow down for the speed bumps. If you do witness a monkey being hit by a car (or injured in any other way) please call Colobus Conservation welfare hotline on 0711 479 453. Together we can help keep Diani’s wildlife wild!


Battle for Alpha .

Over the last few months at Colobus Conservation we have been witnessing an interesting rivalry and dominance struggle between two wild vervet monkeys for the alpha male position in our release troop. In January 2013 the previous alpha male, Handy-Jo, was killed in a human wildlife conflict, while this was a terrible occurrence it is unfortunately not an isolated incident. In 2012 there were a reported 178 human wildlife conflict incidents involving monkeys within Diani, these included cases of electrocution by unisulated power lines, road traffic accidents, stoning, individuals doused in paint and even one baboon was killed with a bow and arrow.

Frankie, the beta male of the release troopAt the time of Handy-Jo’s death Frankie was the most likely new alpha of the troop. Frankie was not an individual released as part of the original troop, but a lone male who has slowly been integrating into the troop since August. However, within 24 hours of Handy-Jo being killed Al, an individual never seen with the troop or in this area before, appeared and began spending time with/or near by the release vervet troop. It is highly unlikely that an appearance at this time was by chance, but most likely because he had been watching the troop and took advantage of the disappearance of the old alpha and as a much larger individual than Frankie, Al, waiting stitches to his face after attack from Frankielikely knew his chances of dominance were good. Within a matter of days an aggressive encounter occurred between Al and Frankie resulting in Al getting a huge gash to his right cheek which needed to be stitched up by our vet (he was called Al, after Al PacinoScarface).

In recent weeks Al has been spending an increasing amount of time with the troop and with the backing of the release troop females has slowly become dominant over Frankie. Frankie has been seen presenting to Al, exposing his neck and other vulnerable areas during grooming which is a very recessive act. In a more confirming case recently a third new male vervet appeared in the area and was chased off by Al (not Frankie) backed up by the females and sub-adults, a clear sign of leadership.

However, there is an integral member of the release troop is a sub-adult male called Broken Arm. Broken Arm appears to be more of a family man, always intently grooming the adult females and playing with the infants and juveniles. At present he is quite young and does not have the muscle, size or experience to really challenge the current leaders. Although Al may currently seem to hold the position of alpha the ranking is not set in stone. Only time will tell for the true alpha to reveal himself and we all believe that Broken Arm is the ultimate contender!


Colobus Corridor Project .

The Colobus Corridor Project is aiming to partner with home owners, renters, kiosk owners, hoteliers and other residents of Diani to plant indigenous trees.   These trees will grow and reconnect forest patches within Diani keeping our town’s natural beauty that brought most of us here in the first place.

Coastal ForestDiani is competing with numerous holiday destinations around the world for a limited number of tourists. Hotels and Colobus Conservation have the same goal, and that is to keep Diani’s natural beauty. Hotels are looking for a distinctive experience to lure their clients to the south coast, while Colobus Conservation is looking to conserve the unique biodiversity of coastal forest. This common goal provides a unique opportunity to work together to ‘Go Green.’

For the residents of Diani, the natural beauty has most often been the appeal to move here. Residents for this reason have the same goal as the hotels and Colobus Conservation. However, an estimated 75% of Diani’s forest has been lost to development over the last 25 years. The remaining forest patches are fragmented and isolated. Still recognised as one of the top 10 world’s biodiversity hotspots, Diani’s inclusion in this remarkable list is quickly losing that claim.

‘Going Green’ is not just an excuse for promoting wildlife but Colobus in the treesis important for our lifestyle, in that a green Diani is simply a nicer place to live compared to a concrete jungle. Additionally, it attracts more tourists and that means jobs.

But did you know that growing trees also helps with maintaining the indigenous forest bird populations, a noticeable benefit from the invasive Indian house crow. Growing trees binds soil so decreases dust around homes, decreases erosion on properties, gives storm protection to buildings and provides shade.

And yes, trees provide food for monkeys and few places in the world can boast on having so many species living in a suburban setting. Colobus Conservation is leading the way in developing solutions to human-monkey conflict internationally.

Planting treesSo, Colobus Conservation is looking to partner with residents, renters, kiosk and hotel owners, really anyone, to plant trees in Diani so that we can keep Diani green and go against the tide of deforestation that is happening before our eyes. Often just a few indigenous trees on any one property will make a difference to Diani’s future.   Let’s all remove the invasive Neem seedlings and plant the trees from the original forest.

Call Colobus Conservation for more details, to see our tree catalogue or have assistance in planting the Colobus Corridor at [email protected] This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 0711 479 453

Pest Management of Yellow Baboons in Diani .

Diani has seen a strong growth in the tourism sector in the last decades leading to deforestation and forest fragmentation. While some primates such as the colobus are threatened with population decline, others such as the yellow baboon are able to adapt to a human-dominated environment. Baboons are opportunistic feeders, omnivorous and take advantage of human food because it is high in energy and a very predictable resource. Baboons living in these conditions can become serious pests, leading to conflicts between humans and baboons especially when baboons raid crop fields or steal food from kitchens and gardens.

As part of the Colobus Conservation Primate Pest Management programme a systematic study of the local baboon population was conducted during the last three months 2012. The aim of the study was to determine the home range of the different troops, quantify the proportion of provisioned food (crops, garbage and ‘stolen’ food) in the diet and identify sites with the potential for human-baboon conflicts.

The preliminary results of the study showed that overall provisioned food makes up a much smaller proportion of the diet (15%) than was anticipated. However, there are marked differences between the troops with some troops relying to more than 20% on provisioned food. An especially surprising result was that the density of baboons is very high in Diani, it is more than three times higher than in other areas in Kenya where baboons also feed on provisioned food. Such a high baboon density can only be supported because of the high amount and easy accessibility of human derived foods.

The study revealed that garbage piles are by far the most important source of provisioned food. This emphasizes that hotels and residents alike can contribute to a decrease in conflicts with baboons by improving their waste management. In addition one baboon troop feeds heavily on crops while another steals food from a hotel kitchen on a daily basis which are further sites of conflict that could be tackled. Although Colobus Conservation strongly advises residents and tourist not to feed monkeys, several instances of people feeding baboons were recorded. This undermines efforts to repel baboons from human-dominated areas.

This study revealed interesting patterns in habitat use and feeding behaviour which will allow Colobus Conservation to set priorities when it comes to reducing conflicts between humans and baboons. When residents in Diani face problems with primates they can contact Colobus Conservation for help in assessing the problem and finding suitable solutions.




Rehabilitation Monkeys get an Enrichment Update .

Over the last couple of weeks Colobus Conservation staff and volunteers have been busy updating and upgrading our current enrichment schedule. Helen Page, an eco-volunteer who joined us earlier this month has been leading this project based on knowledge she brought with her from working in UK zoos

Enrichment is an animal husbandry technique that has been designed to improve the care and reduce potential boredom of captive animals. The purpose of enrichment is to increase the range and number of species-specific behaviours, and reduce the frequency of abnormal or stereotypical (repetitive actions with no obvious personal gain) behaviours. In addition to this, Colobus Conservation designs its enrichment program to teach the monkeys essential life skills such as foraging for insects or sleeping and moving in branches, ultimately better preparing them for life back in the wild.


Helen and the Colobus Conservation Team initially focused their attention on our pre-release vervet and Sykes monkey’s. These individual are from a range of ages and backgrounds e.g. orphans and ex-pets. Enrichment for these primates needs to be varied so that there is something to engage all individuals while keeping it natural and replicating what would be found in the wild and encourage natural behaviours.


Yesterday Browse Bars were the order of the day and trialled for the first time this morning. This enrichment item aims to replicate how browse (wild leaves and flowers) would be seen and accessed in the wild. In addition it provides a challenge to the monkeys on how they can get to their preferred browse branch which will involve climbing, pulling and manoeuvring branches from the feeders.


An example of browse bars before hung in the enclosures

For browser bars logs are collected and numerous holes are drilled through the log along its length and ropes added to allow the browser bars to be hung on the inside of the enclosure.

Browse bars hung up and ready to use


This morning, while cleaning the monkeys, the browse bars were tied to the inside mesh of the enclosures. Branches of leaves and flowers were then collected and placed vertically into the holes of the browse bars for the monkeys to pull at.




Once in place the monkeys were allowed access and were able to begin enjoying their new feeders and puzzling over how to reach their desired branch and access the delicious bourgainvillea and flamboyant flowers.

Juvenile vervet and Sykes exploring the new Browse BarsAdult vervet monkey exploring the new Browse Bars