Tag Archives: Angolan Colobus

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!

Rescue, rehabilitation and release

Sarah, one of our Eco-volunteers, wrote this blog about the successful treatment and release of an electrocuted Colobus monkey:

The rescue, rehabilitation and release of monkeys are some of the main goals governing the Colobus Trust.  A few days ago, I had the privilege of witnessing the release of an adult colobus that the Trust rescued after it had been electrocuted.  Electrocution is a big threat to the monkey population in Diani, because monkeys are not aware that wires carry electric current and walk on high voltage lines. Electrocuted monkeys can die immediately or, in an effort to soothe the pain, bite their wounds and an infection ends up killing them.

A Colobus doesn't survive its encounter with the wires

A Colobus doesn't survive its encounter with the wires

On Friday afternoon, someone called saying a Colobus had been electrocuted. We went to investigate and determined the Colobus needed medical attention. When examining his injuries we discovered that minor burns covered his hind legs and he had small, but severe, burns on his two front legs. We cleaned the wounds and the Colobus received anti-biotic and anti-inflammatory medicine before going into a large cage for monitoring.

By Monday the Colobus was ready to be released.  The monkey was darted in the early morning to get him in the cage and by afternoon was fully awake and alert.  Driving in the truck the monkey was unable to calm itself and destroyed various rags and leaves that were initially placed it its cage to keep it relaxed.  Although the monkey’s state may sound upsetting, it shows he had certainly regained his strength. His reaction also indicates that he never became comfortable around humans, thereby maintaining his healthy fear of people.  This fear is necessary for the Colobus and other monkeys’ survival as humans are the primary cause of the declining monkey population in Diani.

John and Peter prepare to release the Colobus

John and Peter prepare to release the Colobus

The Colobus was released where it had been captured.  John, the Animal welfare officer, opened the cage door and stood back.  The newly freed monkey ran out at full speed and immediately leapt into the nearest tree.  He looked much happier than he had in days and appeared at ease in his familiar surroundings.  We observed the monkey in its natural habitat for a few minutes before leaving. The Colobus did not immediately search for his troop but because we returned him to the troop’s home range, when he looked for them the Colobus would quickly rejoin his family. Watching the Colobus return to its natural habitat was truly inspirational and demonstrated the immense benefits for monkeys when living in their natural environments and territories.

Sarah

Eco-volunteer

The Colobus content back in his natural habitat

The Colobus content back in his natural habitat

As some readers may be aware, Wildlifedirect are no longer going to be able to take donations through the website. Therefore if you’ve been thinking about donating something small or large to help the Colobus Trust, now is the time to do it! The function to donate on the website will close on the 30th March but we will still be blogging to let you know how we are getting on.

Thanks for your support and interest!
Cara

Mt Kasigau – Home to a newly discovered Angolan Pied Colobus population?

Mount Kasigau is a remote peak of the Eastern Arc Mountains bordering the southernmost reaches of Tsavo West National Park. Located a third of the way between the Taita Hills and the Indian Ocean it rises majestically 3,000 feet above the Taru Desert, a refuge from the deserts dry heat. Although clearly visible from the Nairobi-Mombasa highway.Mt Kasigau has seen limited scientific study and still holds a great deal of mystery about its ecological makeup. This is due to the limitations imposed by its remote location and inaccessibility; due to its thick, forested slopes and shear rock faces.500×146Mt Kasigau from a viewpoint in RukingaWhen the Colobus Trust heard that a black and white monkey had been spotted on the mountain interest was stirred, notably mine! The population of C. angolensis palliatus is known to stretch inland into the southern highlands of Tanzania, but according to literature held at our site the remaining Kenyan population is confined to what is left of the coastal forests of the Kwale District, with the most inland population being in the Shimba Hills NR, a mere 30 km from the coast.Therefore the identification of a surviving inland Kenyan population of our focal species would be of great significance, not just for ensuring the protection of the forest but also for the scientific study of the causes and effects of isolation.Last month we were kindly invited to stay at Rukinga Wildlife Sanctuary, otherwise known as Camp Tsavo (visit http://www.campsinternational.com for more information), an 80,000 acre area of land in the Tsavo Migration Corridor. We set out with the specific intent on shedding more light on the situation. At their wonderful camp we got talking to Ken, who has worked and lived in and around Kasigau for many years. We also got talking to Rob Dodson, who set up Rukinga and who led IUCN Primate Group Director Tom Putchinski around the mountain to answer the same question as us after spotting what he believed to be Colobus monkeys traversing a rock face. We learnt of several other sightings. In the end there was nothing conclusive and the general consensus was that there was no population present. However, we were still keen to investigate further as there were still unanswered questions.The next day we headed for the mountain. Led by Ken, we climbed up the slopes past Blue Gum Trees and Wild Bananas to the home of an old farmer who’s farm has one of the most spectacular views I’ve ever seen. He made his living farming maize, oranges and other crops high on the slopes of the mountain with thick forest bordering the fields. With a lifetime spent on the mountain we decided he would be a good person to ask if he’d ever seen a Colobus and we’d brought along my Kingdon Field Guide to Mammals to help.375×496The Old FarmerConversing in a mixture of Taita and Swahili I was only able to pick up a few words. So Ken helped by translating for me. The farmer said that there were three kinds of monkey he has seen on the mountain. Kima (Sykes Monkey), Tumbili (Vervet Monkey) and one he had no name for. We confirmed this by showing him drawings of the monkeys in the field guide.500×375Gwili & Ken show the guide to the farmerThen we asked him about the unnamed species. He said they lived in groups up to 50 (Colobus troops in Diani usual have from 4-12 members), were black and white and visited his farm regularly. We showed him the field guide and as a test asked him to distinguish whether they were the Angolan Colobus (below left) or Guereza Colobus (below right) as a test. The Guereza are found in mountainous regions in East Africa, such as Mounts Kilimanjaro, Kenya & Meru, as well as in numerous parts of the Rift Valley.500×189Angolan (left) & Guereza (Right) Pied ColobusHe was certain that it was the Angolan Colobus he saw. He even pointed out that they have shorter epaulets (white hair on the shoulder). This is one of the distinguishing features of our sub-species (C. angolensis palliatus). This was very exciting! We asked when he last saw them. He said they passed through about half an hour ago! We tried to track the monkeys for about an hour, but to no avail. This was a shame but more interesting information was to come on the way back. The farmer was convinced that the monkeys we were looking for occasionally raided his crops. This was strange to hear, as Colobus are not known to be crop raiders at the coast. More excitement was to come when we were nearing his house. We found skulls of what appear to be two large male Colobus! These were taken back to our office where they await a proper scientific analysis.499×334Colobus Skulls?The questions posed by this discovery on return to the Colobus Trust caused quite a stir. As I said, the possibility of locating this isolated, inland population not only will help promote the protection of one of the remaining forests in the area, but will also open up many scientific questions about the effects of isolation.  One example is how they got there? When discussing it with Danny Woodley, KWS Senior Warden of Tsavo West NP, he mentioned that many animals (including several Sable Antelope) were displaced from the coast by the effects of the 1997-98 El Nino. Could they have been driven there in response to the change in rainfall patterns, or have they been there since the lowland forest receded 3,000-5,000 years ago? If they have been isolated for such a long period then there could be every chance that their behaviour could be so altered that they live in troops of such a large number (other subspecies of C. angolensis have troops this size) and could the gradual decrease in the size of their habitat have driven them to feed on different food sources? It would explain why the farmer was so certain they raided his crops?   More excitement came when Camps International were told by one of their students that a picture of a Colobus had been taken on Kasigau. Sadly though, when the photo was examined it was nothing but a rather large, fluffy male Sykes Monkey! We are currently looking for funding to send a team up the mountain for a 3-night, 5-day expedition. During this time we will undertake a sweep census of all primates (and hopefully other wildlife) and a thorough analysis of the known Colobus food species of Diani’s population. If Colobus are deemed present, then we have our work set out for us!Watch this space!Gwili