Category Archives: Human – Primate Conflict Resolution

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.

Clicker Training Betsy, a pre-release Angolan colobus monkey .

With each new carer or researcher that comes to Colobus Conservation to help with the rehabilitation and release of our hand reared monkeys, come a wave of new ideas on how situations can be improved or new things we can try. Often the suggestions have been tried before or more frequently they are used at a specific point of the individuals’ rehabilitation and not as a daily event. However, when Johanna Olsson, Betsy’s new release coordinator, arrived in December she made a suggestion that was unique, had not been tried before and after just four weeks of implementation appears to be making an extraordinary change to Betsy’s behaviour.

Clicker trainingBetsy clicker training

Clicker training uses a clicker, and a reward. For Betsy the clicker is the lid of a jam jar, and the reward is a peanut. You may have heard of Pavlov’s dogs; every time food was presented a bell was rung. Eventually the bell would ring, and the dogs, having been classically conditioned, would salivate in response to the bell without the presence of food. Clicker training is a similar concept but instead of a bell, it is a click.

Step one of the training with Betsy started by creating an association between the click and the peanut. Give a peanut, and click simultaneously. Step two: click, wait, and then peanut. Step three: when Betsy is out of the enclosure at forest school and she is behaving in a desirable way, click and then reward with a peanut. The idea is that the click causes Betsy to feel positive thereby making it more likely for her to, for example, spend time in trees, foraging and ignoring people.

Why is clicker training required with Betsy?

When Johanna started, Betsy was spending a lot of time on the ground, a lot of time seeking mischief and was rewarded with human attention due to the commotion she had caused. Of course primates being rather smart, Betsy being a fan of these games. Clicker training turns the game upside down, good behaviours are rewarded, while bad ones are ignored or discouraged. Obviously you can reward a behaviour with just a peanut, this wouldn’t necessarily require the clicker. The clicker, acts as a marker for the exact moment the good behaviour is performed, thereby communicating that the current action is good and then the reward can come later.

What do we hope to achieve?

We are hoping that Betsy will begin to actively seek out trees to sleep in and forage more independently. The clicker will also be utilised to reward any form of interaction with wild colobus, maybe helping to integrate her into a troop and one day herself, become wild again. So far, there have been huge improvements. It is a long way off from being perfect but things are definitely going in the right direction. Hopefully over time, and with the addition of target training (see below) we will continue to see progress, building on the positive steps that have been put in place and see great things to come.

What is target training?

In the future we hope to begin target training with Betsy. Target training is teaching an animal to come towards, touch or stay by an object such as, in this case a stick with a golf ball on one end. This acts as a point of focus or ‘target’ which the animal learns to follow. This is taught using the clicker, every time Betsy touches the target; she receives a click and then a reward.

How can target training be used?

Target training can be useful in guiding an animal from one point to another, although usually only utilised in zoo and laboratory animals, in the context of wildlife rehabilitation we will use the target to encourage time spent high up in trees foraging. Another benefit is that it may reduce the need for human contact when manoeuvring Betsy from one spot to another. This may reduce stress by allowing for clearer communication, eventually resulting in the learned behaviour becoming habitual as oppose to dependant on physical cues and rewards.

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.

Two road accidents cause upset in our vervet release troop .

On Tuesday 10th September, Franky Four Fingers, a wild adult male that has joined our vervet release troop, was hit by a car while crossing the main road in front of our headquarters. For the next two days he was visibly suffering from the blow, struggling to coordinate his movement and regularly vomiting, both common signs of a concussion.

Frankie before the accidentTwo days later he disappeared and wasn’t spotted with the troop and after a few tense days we assumed the worst but anticipated some interesting developments in the troop; after the death of the troop’s Alpha male at the beginning of this year, Franky had appeared to be the dominant male in the troop, regularly asserting his dominance over the other troop members, especially and surprisingly over the largest male, Al (a second wild male that has joined the troop).

On the Friday of that week Al was heard to be alarm-calling and making submissive vocalisations in a plot adjacent to the Colobus Conservation site, noises which he regularly made when approached by Franky. Although our curiosity was piqued, it wasn’t until Franky was spotted on site that we fully understood what was going on. We were all very pleased but surprised, and although he looked much thinner than he had been, he looked well and the majority of the troop seemed eager to approach and investigate him in his position high up a tree.


Upon coming to ground, however, Franky was approached by Al and we were shocked to observe a striking switch in roles – whereas normally Al cowers and makes submissive vocalisations when approached by Franky, it was Franky who cowered when approached by Al! Observing this weakness, Al acted on it and struck Franky, who reacted violently and Al’s face was slashed open in the brawl.

This ongoing drama of dominance battles was sadly interrupted by the untimely death of Al after also being hit by a speeding car just three days later. Franky still appears weak and has yet to fully reintegrate with the troop and another male, Broken Arm, appears to be taking advantage of his absence by assuming a dominant role within the troop. We will keep you posted on how this exciting situation unfolds over the next few weeks!

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.




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.