Category Archives: Research

In the jungle, the mighty jungle…

On Wednesday afternoon staff and volunteers from the Colobus Trust completed a 3-day census of Colobus monkeys in the Gongoni Forest Reserve. WWF had given us a small amount of funding to conduct the census, which would use the Colobus monkey as an indicator of the quality of the forest. We had rangers from the Kenya Forest Service with us who were armed with rifles to protect us from buffalo, and locals with pangas (machetes) to help us navigate through the forest.

We were divided into three groups and given GPSs with a coordinate which we would attempt to follow down to the other edge of the forest in a straight line. The first day was extremely dense and thick because it was all secondary growth forest. Everyone battled their way through the undergrowth, sometimes crawling, and it took one group 2 hours to cover 1 km.  Some Colobus were seen but everyone was hoping for more!

The second day of the census was definitely not what we were expecting it to be. Immediately off the bat poaching camps and snares were found. The Gongoni Forest has become really thin due to illegal cutting, mostly by local poachers who chop down large trees and sell the wood for house-building or furniture-making. Whilst making their way through the woods, one of our teams came across a group of poachers who were in the middle of cutting up trees. The forest ranger with them told the team to be quiet and to get down. They waited whilst the ranger snuck up on the poachers and then shouted at them to put their hands above their head and get on the ground. One man escaped but the other was caught. The ranger marched him out off the forest along with the census team and they met up with another census team at the other end of the transect. Both of the rangers wanted to be the ones to bring the poacher in which meant that our census activities for the day came to an abrupt end. Both teams walked with the guards and the poacher to a meeting point where a police truck was going to come and pick them up. On the way, the guards spotted another poacher with an even larger bundle of wood. They sprinted after him and one of them fired a blank to scare the poacher. Before everyone knew it there were two poachers handcuffed and waiting under a tree to be picked up.

On the third day, some transects had to be modified in order to complete the census on time due to the fact that the poachers on the day before had set us back. Two teams completed two 3.5 km transects but one of these teams saw no monkeys at all! Far too many poaching camps and garages (where poachers chop the wood) were discovered. It was sad to realize how hard the Kenya Forest Service’s job is and how ineffective some methods may be at preventing poaching.

It was a relief for most to finish their last transects and escape the heat and humidity of the woods. Those days spent in the forest were difficult work! Making the way through lots of heavy bush, vines and thorny branches did not make travel very easy. Despite it all, the volunteers are happy that they had the experience but are thrilled to get back to normal days at the trust!

We’ll give you the results of our census as soon as we can!

Thanks for reading,

Hannah Follender

Eco-volunteer

And The Colobus Team

Hybrid news…

The Vervet-Sykes hybrid data collection has become rather frustrating recently as he become quite hard to find. When he has been found, the hybrid has still been looking quite battle-scarred! The old injury to his front leg seems to be still hurting him as he holds it at an odd angle and limps on it. He has recently also received a bite to his tail, which whilst being superficial looks quite painful. The bad gash to the hybrid’s rear leg, however, appears to be healing up really well- especially considering how bad it looked initially. In other good news, the hybrid has been groomed quite often by one of the female Sykes. Rob, ever dedicated, has collected a faecal sample which we will be sending off soon so that we can get a genetic profile for the hybrid.

The Colobus Team

What a way to behave!

In the last few days we have stepped up our data gathering on the potential Vervet/Sykes hybrid.

For the past three days the Sykes troop with which the hybrid associates has been located on the old nature trail at Leopard Beach Resort and Spa, close to the hotel’s southern boundary.

The hybrid can be differentiated from the rest of the troop by several factors. Its fur is much more Vervet-like in colour than that of the Sykes. The most obvious difference is that unlike Sykes monkeys but in common with Vervets it has blue balls. There is also the fact that it just looks a bit strange that makes it stand out. He is also currently carrying a few injuries which make him more readily identifiable. He has a cut on its left shoulder which he can often be seen trying to lick, as well as an older injury on his right front leg. The injury on his leg appears to be painful as he does not put his full weight on it and so limps along a little. A male Sykes in the troop also has a couple of recent injuries to its right shoulder and leg. Whether this is just a coincidence or the result of a fight between the two we don’t know.

The hybrid is almost always found on his own and often on the periphery of the troop. Although other Sykes do move relatively close to him, the closest recent social interaction that has been observed is when the hybrid moved up to and sat next to an adult female Sykes. However she walked away almost immediately when he did this.

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Above: The hybrid at Leopard Beach

Due to the density of some of the low-level forest vegetation, maintaining visual contact and following the hybrid at times have proved to be challenging to say the least! Fortunately there appears to be a pattern with their movement over the last few days so it has often been possible to head them off at the pass, as it were. On a number of occasions the resort’s staff have also been very helpful in locating the hybrid when he has been out of sight.

Most of the observations recorded so far suggest that the main activities the hybrid engages in are grooming himself and resting. This may just be a result of the time the observations have been taken rather than due to other factors. Most primates indulge in the majority of their direct social interactions, such as grooming and playing, in the early morning and late afternoon. So far the recent observations have been taken from mid morning till about 1pm, this might explain the lack of social interactions between the hybrid and other members of the troop. Hopefully a couple of early morning starts will show if the hybrid does interact with any other monkeys.

The question is how did this potential hybrid arise? We think that the hybrid may be the result of greater interaction between the Vervets and Sykes caused by the continued reduction in the availability of suitable habitat for each troop. Further study is needed to reveal if this is indeed the case. For example, however, just yesterday the Sykes troop and a Vervet troop met up with each other on a grassy area in front of the resort’s Spa buildings. The two troops freely intermixed but only two cases of direct interaction were observed. A juvenile Vervet and a juvenile Sykes briefly approached each other and touched before walking away again and there was a small fight between a Vervet and Sykes. The Sykes troop is also often in proximity to a couple of different Colobus troops but no direct interaction has yet been seen.

At some stage we are planning to dart the hybrid so that we can take physical measurements and to obtain a DNA sample so that we can have a genetics test run. However because we are currently critically low on our resources required for darting, they are being reserved for welfare cases only at the moment.

Hope to give you more information soon!

Rob

Colobologist

More new on the Diani Hybrids.

 Recently Colobus trust wrote about finding a new hybrid species. This was believed to be a mix of vervet and sykes monkeys. The picture we posted belonged to Yvonne A. de Jong & Thomas M. Butynski, since then the Colobus Trust team has been out on a number of occasions trying to learn more about these creatures. 

When I first heard about these animals, to be honest, I didn’t believe it. Normally sykes and vervets don’t like to interact very much.  Opposed to Colobus who do not eat the same foods, these animals do have a lot of competition for food. It is not unusual that they would live in the same area. But for them to be in such close proximity to one another that mating begins to take place is a sign of something. I believe this has something to do with the loss of natural habitat in Diani putting these animals in much closer proximity.  Until I saw these new pictures I believe you could have made the argument that this was just a funny looking skyes monkey. What is very interesting to us is that the testicles of this animal are blue. This is a very specific trait of the veret monkey and not sykes. With this evidence there is no doubt in my mind now what we are looking at. This is indeed a hybrid and we are very excited to share these photos with you today.

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We have been spending much more time with these animals in the last few weeks trying to gather as much information as possible. We have confirmed two individuals but know that there are at least 5. The one we followed on this day was hanging out with a group of sykes. Although he was positioned on the outside of the group, he seemed to display some of the dominant traits. The other monkeys stayed out his way and on a few occasions he approached our team a bit aggressively.  It is a common belief that when these two animals of different species mate the offspring will be unfertile. The question then arises why are there so many and have they formed a troop of their own? These are things we here at the trust are looking into. We look forward to collaborating with other researchers such as Yvonne A. de Jong & Thomas M. Butynski on this subject. The Colobus Trust will keep you updated on what we find as well as any information about where other incidences such as this may have happened before.

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Andrew Hayes

www.colobustrust.org

New Findings

Diani is the most magnificent place ever, I come from western Kenya where people there are so passionate about farming of crops. I am very sure that everyone understand what I mean when I talk about crop farming, not many trees are found here, no forests, no wild animals live here anymore. My main point here today is about Diani, the place I currently live, I have been here for thirteen years now. I have worked with monkeys in trying to fight for rights and help them live a better life but for the last few years I have had sightings that are interesting to see. Lately I have seen a new species of monkey that looks like half vervet and half syke monkeys, I mean from the head they look vervet but from the rear end they look Sykes.This is one thing that many people may not want to believe because Diani has always had only four known species of monkeys, namely, colobus , baboons , vervets and Sykes.

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(Photograph taken by Yvonne A. de Jong & Thomas M. Butynski)

I have never heard of cross breed amongst monkeys before,but now it seems to me that the real problem of deforestation in Diani is phasing out other species of monkey who have found it hard to survive on a very limited patch of coral rag forest remaining in Diani. I am now officially inviting people to see this new species so that we confirm a fifth species of monkeys in Diani. It will be interesting to see the effects of deforestation in Diani because many more funny looking species of animals will come up due to serious destruction we are witnessing here.

John Abuor- Colobus Trust, Animal Welfare Unit

www.colobustrust.org

Colobus Trust’s report on Kaya Muhaka.

Camp Kenya along with Colobus trust completed a preliminary study of Kaya Muhaka (KM) from July 14-16. The following is a brief summary of what was found and recommendation for further research. The three days used with Camp Kenya volunteers and Colobus Trust staff were used as a preliminary study to decide whether or not further research would be necessary and which methods would best suit research in KM.

Two methods were tried during the three days, transects and casual watch. Transect method involves picking a starting point on one end of the forest and walking along a baring, in this case 90 degrees or East. Transects are then repeated every 100m. In the end you have a parallel transects running along the entire length of the forest. In the future distance sampling will be used with the data collected to give an estimated population size of a particular species, in this case the Angolan black and white colobus. Casual watch is done by gridding the entire forest and remaining stationary for an extended period of time. Groups set out into the forest to predetermined position. The groups then separate within the limits of the section, generally 50m sq. and sit quietly recording all observations.

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During the three days of field work we completed six transects. Because there was no existing map we arbitrarily picked a point in the forest near the tree nursery. Without a GPS it was difficult to determine the exact distance walked but with pacing we estimate the length of transects to be around 1.8k. During these transects we spotted twelve individual Colobus in three troops. The majority of sightings were located on the East side of the forest where the percentage of canopy cover and height is much greater. Other species noted: One bell hinged tortoise, one squirrel species, one viper species and one troop of yellow baboons.

Two periods of casual watch were completed with two groups resulting in 4 hours and 30 minutes of total survey time. During this period nine individuals of Colobus in two troops had been spotted. A number of unidentified bird species had been observed as well as two bush pigs. Droppings from what was believed to be a suni antelope were also found.

On the final day two teams set out in different directions to gain an estimated size of the entire forest. Walking in two directions and counting paces we gauge the perimeter to be about 6-7k around and likely 2k at its widest depth from East to West.  It appears to be slightly rectangle in shape but without a GPS or more time it was not possible to be certain.  On this walk three more individuals Colobus had been spotted alone from a distance. It was not possible to confirm whether they were lone males or if their troops were nearby. In total 24 individuals and 5 troops had been spotted in 3 days.

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Kaya Muhaka is a protected forest reserve located near Camp Kenya’s base in Muhaka, Kenya. Camp Kenya is in the process of planting a buffer zone around the Kaya in order to reduce the reliance on the natural resources from the forest and to increase protection.  In order to help gain support in conservation efforts it is necessary to know the importance if this forest to the wildlife and surrounding communities. KM is a very unique forest in that the forest bed is almost entirely sand measuring 0.5m or more in many places. This creates a number of interesting micro-habitats which could be of conservation value.

It is the Colobus Trusts opinion that more research is needed to fully understand the importance of this forest. From the impressive number of sighting we obtained in the three survey days we can assume that a large population of Colobus still lives in KM and that this is still an important habitat for this species. A full census should be completed to compare against the previous one done in 2005. It would also be useful to have a look at bird species. The spotted ground thrush is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. If it was found to nest or migrate through KM, as it does in other forest nearby, this would add significant value to KM. The Zanji elephant shrew is not listed due to deficient data. It is unclear if KM is an appropriate habitat for this animal because of its sandy floor. Knowing this would add helpful information to understanding the habitats of this little understood species.

In order to complete a full survey of this forest we recommend using the transect method. It is much less time consuming and generally more accurate. Full maps will first need to be built to have a clear view of the area to be covered and to decide number of transects needed. While on transects all species sightings should be recorded. Time should also be allocated for bird surveys.

These are basic recommendations for the next steps in KM. Further research will be of both conservation and socio-economical value. It is up to Camp Kenya to decide where they would like to go from here. Colobus Trust was hired as research consultants and would be happy to continue this relationship. For any further quires please contact the Colobus Trust.

www.ColobusTrust.org

Colobus Check…

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Cheza, Luciana’s Troop

To keep up-to-date with the actual number of Colobus monkey population in Diani – which also tells a lot about the conservation situation – The Colobus Trust is now launching the Colobus Monitoring again. This means that at least once a week, a team of volunteers and staff members go out in Diani and systematically track the Colobus Troops of Diani. The Colobus check includes collecting data about the number of monkeys, the sex and age of every individual, where and when they were spotted and where they were heading. Each Colobus troop has its own favourite spot of the forest and more or less they stay within this area. This is why we can name the troops and be almost sure of where they can be found.

During the last weeks, our team has been out in the field counting these black-and-white monkeys, and so far – ¼ of the Diani area checked – we have found 100 monkeys, belonging to 13 different troops, which looks very promising. Also, the large number of Colobus infants is surprising, and means that the future for these monkeys looks much brighter than before.

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 Chip, Luciana’s Troop

Nevertheless, we have to remember that this is mainly due to conservation work, such as building the colobridges, tree-trim around the electric wires, de-snaring programmes and wildlife & environmental education of locals which is only possible to carry out with the support from all of you. An increased number of Colobus monkeys in Diani means our work really contributes to ensuring its survival and breeding, which of course is very encouraging! So keep up the good work, we still have a long way to go.

Anna Sandahl, Colobologist

Adopt a Colobus

This week has seen the launch of the new Adopt a Colobus programme here at the Colobus Trust. This is an important programme, aimed to provide vital support for the conservation of the Angolan colobus monkey.

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Cheo is looking out from his good-view tree spot

 

Here at the Trust, we are lucky to have a troop of colobus that frequent the Trust garden, choosing it as their territory. Staff and volunteers alike spend hours observing the movements and habits of this engaging family. The so named Luciana Troop is made up of 7 colobus, each with their own visual characteristics and personal traits. Cheo, a beautifully majestic colobus, is the dominant male and it is his job to look out for and protect his family. There are two adult females, Chunga and Cheka. Chunga is the dominant of the two, therefore also the troop leader. She has two children, Cheza the subordinate male of the group, and Chipua, one of the two juveniles. The other female is Cheka, mother to the sub-adult female Chuma, and the youngest member Chip.

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 Chipua rests in a tree after playtime

 

It is fascinating to watch the family dynamics of this troop as they move through the Colobus Trust compound. True to colobus form, they spend most of their time eating, preferring the brightly coloured flowers of the flamboyant tree, as well as other choice buds and leaves. Much time is also devoted to play, however, and the two juveniles, Chip and Chipua, are full of energy and are forever getting up to mischief. It is not unknown for them to be seen cavorting with the infants of other monkey species in the area, namely the sykes. Watching such scenes unfold in our garden is a regular pass time here at the Trust!

 

Luciana’s Troop used to number 8 before one of Chunga’s offspring was electrocuted two months ago when it was just a baby. Such examples of human-primate conflict are sadly common in the Diani area. The Adopt a Colobus programme is in place so that people can donate to the Trust, helping us to maintain, and keep improving, the work that we do. By donating, people can enjoy the benefits of an enriched knowledge of these magnificent animals through regular updates from the Trust while at the same time, supporting their plight. For more information, please visit  http://www.colobustrust.org/support_us.html

 

Shaking hands online…

Great Primate HandshakeA couple of years ago, the Colobus Trust had a visit from a really interesting group called The Great Primate Handshake which is a really funky idea for bringing together travelling, helping and online networking – I’m jealous! That just about sums up everything I would like to do with my life!

Well, it looks like this big truck of creative chaps are on their way back to Kenya. We are expecting to work with the team on various areas including adding a great deal of anthopological and multimedia support to our proposed habitat census that we hope to be launching in June.  You can read more about our planned census on the recent newsletter we put out which is available HERE.

While the Great Primate Handshake team was here last time, they put together some great videos that really sum up what we do at the Colobus Trust. Enjoy the watch and pass it on!

Looking forward to meeting you guys offline!

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/z70wOvtVPn4" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

More online videos available HERE.

Bushmeat: The bigger picture

Bushmeat is one of those complicated issues that is often oversimplified and sensationalised by conservation and animal welfare organisations because of the emotions it stirs up in people and how easy it is to capitalise on our reactive needs to do something about a problem when confronted with the gruesome but simplified reality of a monkey being carved up for lunch.

There is no question of the alarming conservation and welfare issues surrounding the consumption and trade in bushmeat that have to be tackled if we are to ensure the survival of certain species, particularly the great apes in western and central Africa. But there is also no question that everything is interelated. Kenya is facing one of its worst droughts in history and not suprisingly, this is leading to an increase in wild game consumption. We posted recently about this HERE after reading an article in the Standard about the worrying increase of wild game meat consumption within the coastal province. Poverty and hunger and a lack of response from the government authorities means that peope have to do what it takes to survive, feed their children and themselves.

I just came across a very interesting video from the TED 2009 posted by Erik Hersman (thanks, Erik!) on his blog.  This is a talk given by Nathan Wolfe from the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative who focuses on the disease interface between wildlife and humans and how they are using working closely with hunters in Cameroon who are taking blood samples from their catch to be examined for disease. This way, the people themselves who are only a symptom of the viscious cycle of poverty and human greed can at least be part of the knowledge process in making decisions and knowing what is at stake in consumption of bushmeat.

Please take the time to watch the video below. We hope that in the near future, the Colobus Trust will be able to address some of the bigger issues surrounding bushmeat consumption through a holistic approach that addresses every trajectory into this despairing practice of eating wild game.

I would also be very interested to hear other people’s thoughts on the video so do post a comment.

Click on the image below to take you to the video

Nathan Wolfe