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.