Category Archives: Human – Primate Conflict Resolution

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.

My Volunteer Experience

I am a zookeeper and veterinary nurse from the United States and work at the Los Angeles Zoo in California. As a zookeeper I work with many African primate species including Black and White Guereza Colobus. I wanted to volunteer at the Colobus Trust to understand the plight of the closely related Black and White Angolan Colobus. Conservation is something that I care about deeply and I have hopes that I will be able to bring more international attention to the Colobus Trust.
Arriving in Africa was a surreal experience and seeing the Colobus in the wild was unbelievable and incredibly exciting, I spent hours just sat watching them. The first few days I was here, I tried to learn as much as I could about the work of the Colobus Trust, finding out more about the tree nursery project and the Colobus Bridges (colobridges), helping in the vet clinic with the emergency welfare cases as well as sharing my knowledge on how to best care for captive primates. I was really enjoying myself, learning a lot about the cause and about myself.
At the end of my first week here, the Trust received an emergency call out late in the evening. While I did not attend the call personally, I helped the vet to prepare the clinic the best we could based on the limited information we had been given. When the patient arrived, an elderly female Colobus, my eyes where truly opened to the plight of this species and I saw things that will stay with me forever! The female was presented with numerous old injuries many of which I felt could not be compatible with a comfortable life, yet she had somehow healed and was living in this condition. In addition to these old injuries, she had also sustained numerous and very severe new injuries caused by electrocution. Unfortunately, due to her age and the extensive injuries she was unable to survive and died within minutes of reaching the on-site vet clinic.
Just a few days later the Colobus Trust, received three separate emergency call outs for electrocuted Colobus monkeys. Fortunately and thanks to the experience and knowledge of the animal welfare team, 2 out of 3 of these monkeys have survived. I was aware before I travelled to Kenya to volunteer for the Colobus Trust that electrocution of monkeys was a problem in the area, however, I never dreamt that in my short 2-week stay I would witness 5 cases of electrocution. I was saddened to realise that the rate at which these monkeys are being injured by live electricity cables, does not give them much hope for survival.
The Colobus Trust is working tirelessly to limit monkey electrocutions and is attacking the problem from two perspectives. Firstly they spend an entire day a week tree trimming (cutting back any branches that are within monkey jumping distance of the wires), while effective this is a short term measure and given the ever-expanding Diani human population more electricity cables are being installed and the Trust are finding it increasingly more difficult to maintain the trees. Secondly they are working in collaboration with K.P.L.C. to insulate as many of the cables as is possible, initially concentrating on the ‘hot spot’ areas, relying on donations from the public to help with the funding.
During my time at the Colobus Trust I was able to participate in many of the projects and I witnessed first hand the huge efforts being made to improve the survival rates and the quality of life for all the animals in Diani Beach. It has been a very inspiring experience and one that I will take home and remember forever.

Colleen RaeElectrocuted Colobus monkeyJohn Abuor trimming trees that are dangerously close to the electricity cables

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

Quarantine Developments

With the number of primates needing the help of the Colobus Trust, we’ve been expanding our facilities to reach our main aim of releasing happy and healthy monkeys back into the wild! Currently standing between the vet clinic and not far from the entrance of the meandering nature trail is the nearly complete quarantine shelter for monkey rehabilitation.

This area will be such a vital part of the rehabilitation for the monkeys, especially so with the Colobus monkeys. The Colobus monkeys need to be treated rapidly as keeping these majestic creatures in captivity can be stressful fort the animal. The Colobus have such specific diets and because of this they are constantly roaming for food. We usually aim to release them within 72 hours in order to reduce the effect of captivity. As the quarantine is separate to the big rehabilitation cages we can focus on individuals and release them back to their homes. Another reason why the quarantine is important is because however beautiful and calm the Colobus appear when gracefully sitting in the trees they are extremely territorial. If they see another who isn’t part of their troop they won’t think twice about attacking them, which will further stress and hinder the progress of the captive monkey!

The previous structure was old, weak and just not suitable anymore, so on the 27th of April 2010 we organised a quiz at Ngiri Bar and Restaurant and managed to raise 70,000 Ksh – a fantastic amount that went towards the creation of the new quarantine. Following this, over the last month or so, both the volunteers and staff have been working extremely hard to re-build the quarantine area. The project is nearing completion with the final touches being added in the next week. We’re all very excited about getting the first patients in to their new shelter! We have such a range of primates with a wider range of problems, some recovering after operations and others who have been taken from their troops to be sold as pets. The new quarantine will give us the best possible chance of releasing these animals back to their natural habitat and families!

Another week at the Colobus Trust…

Last week we continued planting more indigenous trees. Our aim is to plant 200 trees at the current plot site that we have been targeting and we have already planted over 100 trees at this site and even more at other sites in the area. These efforts will help reestablish the continuous forest in Diani. This has not been an easy task as in many areas coral has proven to be a challenge to dig into. The Diani forests, known as coral rag forests, exist on large and deep beds of coral- it means that slow-growing indigenous trees have a tough time unless we can dig a big enough hole for their roots. We are also encouraging Diani residents to plant indigenous trees on their property to assist us in our project.

Some of the trees we're planting in Diani

Some of the trees we're planting in Diani

We have also made labels to attach to the trees so that we can identify and track them. The aim is to collect data on the progress of different species and learn how to maximize forest growth. The plan for the future is to analyze the collected data in ArcGIS, an advanced mapping program. We hope to discover which species thrive most successfully and change our approach for those species that do not.

Felice clinging on to his love, Emily

Felice clinging on to his love, Emily

In addition, the baby Vervet monkey finally has a name! Parin Streil of Germany won the eBay auction and decided on the beautiful name Emily. Not only are we grateful to have a name for Emily, but also the money generated by the auction to name her is greatly appreciated. Parin has helped the Trust before by reporting the electrocution of Felice’s (our baby Sykes monkey) mother, leading to his rescue. Felice is doing really well with Emily as his playmate.

Thanks for reading,

Haley and Amelia

Volunteeers

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.

Haley,

Volunteer

Lucky in some ways…

Last month we had a call about an electrocuted sykes monkey. The death of the monkey was sad enough, but it emerged that the monkey was a mother to an infant monkey that was now orphaned. When we got to the premises we spoke to Miss. Parin Streil who was holding the infant in her hands. She narrated the whole ordeal to us in detail and was really disturbed by the whole tragedy. We examined the infant and established he had no physical injuries then took him back to trust vet clinic for further assessment.

Felice fast asleep soon after his arrival

Felice fast asleep soon after his arrival

Parin was vey concerned about how we would cope with it and if it was going to be ok. I informed her of the adoption programme where concerned animal lovers like herself had the opportunity adopt and help raise infant monkeys by contributing a certain amount as a donation. The donation goes towards the welfare for the infants, enabling us to buy food, enrichment items and veterinary supplies. The support of adopters is very important because we are a charitable organisation and so have limited funds.

He's not as grumpy as he looks!!

He's not as grumpy as he looks!!

Miss. Streil requested to name the infant Felice which means happy in Italian. Felice is indeed happy and enjoying life at the Trust. He will be given a chance of a normal life because when he is big enough he will be in our rehabilitation cages then finally released back to the wild. This will take a lot of time, patience and resources but we are all committed to this course. Meanwhile, he has a friend in our (as yet) unnamed vervet orphan and he even appeared on MSN’s Week in Pictures shortly after his arrival!

We’ll keep you posted on how he’s getting on.

Thanks for reading,

Mavinya

A baby vervet needs a name

A week and a half ago, we had a new arrival at the Colobus Trust in the form of a baby vervet monkey. Her mother was electrocuted in Mombasa and the lady who discovered the sad scene called us to pick up the orphan. When the vervet arrived she still had her umbilical cord attached, so we estimate that she is only 2 and a half weeks old. This tiny vervet is beautiful and so feisty, already play-fighting with the Sykes baby monkey we also have in our care. She will be raised by volunteers at the Colobus Trust until she is old enough to then be rehabilitated and when she’s ready will be released into the wild.

The new arrival

The new arrival

We’ve decided that this delightful girl needs a name! We have set up an eBay auction so that anyone who would like the honor of naming this baby can bid to buy the rights. Money raised will go towards food for her and the other animals we have in our care at the moment, medicine, insulating electrical wires so this problem can be reduced and many more things. So please visit the site be generous!

Thanks for your support,

Cara

If you go down to the forest today…

Looking for and removing snares is a vital and regular piece of work for staff and volunteers at the Trust.  Hunting is illegal in Kenya after being banned in 1977, but we know that some forms of hunting still carry on. One way of hunting small animals in forests is to lay a snare on the ground. The snares can be loops of wire tied around trees or spring traps which lie covered on the ground and then catch the animal and snap it into the air if it happens to walk over it. These traps are laid by poachers to capture Suni antelope, dik dik, bush pig, and other animals. Monkeys also get trapped in these snares although they are not set to catch them intentionally.

The skull found in the forest

The skull found in the forest

On one regular visit to a forest near the Flamboyant hotel we had a grisly find. In the undergrowth, we found a wire snare that still had a skull attached to it. A Suni had got caught with the snare around its neck and there was evidence of burnt skin and fur attached. We can only guess that the animal was burnt when a section of forest caught fire, but we don’t know if it was still alive at the time.

The Suni was still attched to the wire snare

The Suni was still attched to the wire snare

On another day a group of us were out looking for snares in Kaya Ukunda. Kayas are sacred forests, which are under increasing pressure due to human population pressures and lack of respect for elders of the tribes who look after the Kayas. Within minutes of entering the forest, we had all found some snares. Much to our horror, a few minutes later we also found some of the men who were probably responsible for laying them! A group of at least five or six men came walking past us on the forest trail, carrying arrows and full sacks on their backs. We kept walking but then realised there were more hunters in the forest as we could hear the two groups were communicating with each other through a series of whistles. The second group also started making their way towards us and being heavily outnumbered we headed off in a different direction. While we were unable to take any action at the time the encounter will be reported and we will continue to make desnaring trips to Kaya Ukunda.

Ruth

Eco-volunteer

Snares trap again…

A few weeks ago, we got a call from Camp Kenya about an injured male Sykes that was limping on its right front hand. When we arrived on the scene and after assessing the situation, John set about darting the monkey in order to treat its injuries. This particular Sykes monkey was very intelligent and managed to dodge the dart several times, but we finally managed to capture him. It was at this point that we discovered the reason for its obvious discomfort was because it had a snare embedded its flesh. We quickly took him back to the Trust clinic in order to take out the snare and wash the wound, and then to treat the lesion on his mouth that had arisen from trying to get the snare off. We successfully removed the snare that had fixed itself deeply into the monkey’s flesh, cleaned the abrasion and gave him some antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicine to deal with the infection.

The lesion on the Sykes' mouth and snare around its hand

The lesion on the Sykes' mouth and snare around its hand

We kept the monkey in the cage for 3 days for observation and when we saw that the healing process had begun to take place, we took him back to where he was captured and released him back to the wild. The release was successful.

The snare removed and the wound cleaned

The snare removed and the wound cleaned

Snares are a big problem here in Diani, simply because the locals set the snares to trap the small Suni antelope for bushmeat. Unfortunately, monkeys fall victim to the traps as well which either results in their death or leaves them with deformities. We have therefore put measures in place to mitigate the snare menace. Firstly, we try to educate the locals on the dangers and disadvantages of putting up the snares, especially with our education program with local schools. Secondly, we have a desnaring program where staff and volunteers go into the forest in Diani and physically remove the snares and traps that have been set. Desnaring saves the lives of forest creatures and promotes sustainability of fauna in Diani.

Mavinya

Volunteer