Category Archives: volunteer

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!

A Baby in the Woods

In and amongst the busy days here it is necessary to clear your head. The nature trail seemed the perfect retreat. Half an acre of untamed Coral Rag forest at the back of our plot, we use it as an integral part of our tours and demonstrations to the local schools that come weekly for education at the Trust. It is dense with trees, mostly local but with some exotic, whose roots grow outward on the surface of the ground due to the layers of coral rock underneath the surface. This complex patchwork is rich with other types of flora and the wildlife that forms its habitat.

I ventured in, the first time I had been alone. Once inside, I could hear the sound of monkeys jumping all around me. As I turned a corner, two Colobus appeared only a few feet in front of me. I think they were as surprised as I was and took off! Further into the forest more Colobus appeared. Only this time they did not run, they held their ground proudly. Amongst this majestic throng sat the proud mother of a tiny white infant. Despite a five month gestation period, Colobus usually bear children only once every one or two years. Even then, infancy can be difficult. The snow-white babies are very dependant on their mothers to carry them around. The specific diet of the adults of at least two kilograms of leaves a day requires migration across their habitat. Due to the deforestation in Diani, this can lead troops into meeting and causes conflict. In situations like this babies can be dropped by their mothers in moments of panic, or they can be harmed by the aggressive adults of the other troop.

We were all very excited to hear the news of a new baby in the home troop, and the next day they gave us the honour of spending their time right outside the cottage. As we rushed out to catch a glimpse of the new young, Cara noticed something unusual about the mother carrying her child. In her arms was not one, but two infant Colobus. They lay still and peaceful against her, and we gazed up wondering about this miracle.

It is very rare for a Colobus to produce two offspring, and even more so in June when their usual time for child bearing is September to October. Our belief is that she was caring for two while the other mother had a chance to eat or rest. We are all so excited to have not just one new arrival but two! Needless to say, we will be keeping our eyes on the new mothers and their babies. Seeing these moments is touching, and often reminds me of how similar the relationships of the Colobus are to our own.

We will keep you informed!

P.S. We haven’t got any pictures of the babies as yet, but they are to come soon!

Edwardo’s Frown

About two weeks ago here at The Colobus Trust we got a call about an injured monkey. The caller explained that a ‘small brown monkey’ had been seen around the hotel that was totally unable to use its back legs. He was one elusive disabled monkey; it took us over half an hour to find him. This was our first encounter with sad Edwardo. A 5-month-old vervet monkey, with the biggest frown I’ve ever seen, who was totally unable to move his body from his legs down.

The only the way he could have survived as long as he has is because of his mother’s care. But soon he would be too big for her milk, or to be carried around. Although vervets are mostly terrestrial during the day, at night they will find trees to sleep in to protect themselves from predators and sometimes eat the leaves from high branches. There is no way Edwardo could climb a tree by himself.

So, out came the net and Edwardo’s frown grew. It’s awful taking a wild animal away from its mother. Especially these two, as due to Edwardo’s condition they would be especially close. As soon as the net went down the mother went mad. We had to keep her away with sticks and shouts while she followed us, howling, all the way to the truck. Monkeys will often mourn the loss of family members and even carry around dead infants for days before they will let go. I am sure Edwardo’s mother would have been no different. However, we hope to be able to reunite a happy, healthy Edwardo with a forlorn mother soon.

Once we had captured him we took him straight to the vet to see if he thought Edwardo had a chance of recovery. He concluded that Edwardo had a slipped disc in his spine and an infected cut on his tail, but with steroids and antibiotics, he could recover in a couple weeks. Edwardo did not struggle too much at the vets; he just frowned. Just as if he’d expected all this to happen. As if he knew suffering to be his lot in life, and all he had to do was wait it out.

Edwardo in the clinic

Edwardo in the clinic

The next morning Edwardo had his first treatment back at the Colobus Cottage. Once we had given him his injections and disinfected his wounds, one of our volunteers thought of physiotherapy. This has worked a charm. After only 3 days he could limp across his cage, rather than drag himself. His right leg is improving now, his left is much stronger and he has even begun to struggle with his back legs as well as frown!  We have moved him to a bigger cage, so he can climb branches and test out his newly functioning legs.

Now, if only we could improve that frown…

Infant Bush baby

In March a couple found a bush baby in their hotel room and contacted us on the hotline to find out what they should do. It was assumed that something has happened to the mother because at a young age they are dependent on them. We advised them to bring it down to the Trust so we could take a look at it. When we examined the infant we estimated its age to be around a month and a half old. We nursed it for a few weeks, progressing its food from milk and Cerelac to fruit and various insects until it became obvious it wanted to be more independent! The bush baby has grown so much and is now living in our roof and doing very well. It comes down for food at night as well as hunting for insects by itself. She loves to play and jump around the place and doesn’t keep still for very long! We haven’t named the bush baby but we’ll let you know it’s progress so stay tuned!

Mavinya

The Bush baby shortly after it's arrival

The Bush baby shortly after its arrival

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

Snow White

When the hotline started ringing I answered expecting to hear the usual story of a Vervet or Sykes lying dead on the side of the road, but for once it was happy news! Ricardo, owner of Water Lovers resort, was calling to say a new Colobus baby had been born that morning. I went down to check on it at 3 days old, and it looks very content in the arms of its mother. The proud new parents remained wary of my intrusion, but allowed me to take some photos of the baby, who is tiny, snowy white, and appears to be in good health. We will keep an eye on it on our weekly Colobus checks and we hope that it will thrive.

Leah,

Volunteer

The baby Colobus with its parents

The baby Colobus with its parents

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