My primary role whilst I am volunteering at the Colobus Trust is to be the full-time carer to Betsy, the juvenile colobus monkey. I am sure many of you may of heard about Betsy’s story, for those who haven’t Betsy is the first hand-reared Angolan black and white colobus monkey to survive past 53 days old. She is now 11 months old and is slowly being prepared for her release back into the wild. This process will take up to a year yet as this would be the age she would naturally leave her mother and will also be at less risk from injury or even infanticide from the dominant male.
As her carer I spend the majority of the day teaching Betsy to climb trees and encourage her to use the trees which the wild troop of Colobus would use, we refer to this as forest school. In addition to this she is also being encouraged to forage and feed in the trees in order to prepare for life in the wild.
To date Betsy is learning extremely fast, she is spending an increased amount of time foraging in the trees and eating a colobus approved diet! The mornings are usually spent climbing in her favourite trees and picking out tasty leaves and buds to feed on. The wild colobus would naturally spend the majority of the morning foraging and feeding intensively in the trees, and will begin to rest in order to digest their food during the hottest hours of the day. So it really is great to see that Betsy is following a similar routine to that of the wild troop, as she will feed and play in the trees up until around 11am. To indicate that she is getting sleepy Betsy will initiate play and then will enjoy being groomed before falling asleep for an hour or so. Her sleep requirement is usually dependent upon how active (physically and mentally) her morning was, and how much she ate.
Betsy generally wakes up just after midday. Once awake Betsy is rejuvenated and ready to explore and climb some more trees! Tree climbing will usually take place in the garden, as this is where the majority of Betsy’s favourite trees are situated, but if Betsy is feeling extra energized and brave then we will venture into the nature trail. The nature trail is the Trust’s private forested area, which is like a playground for Betsy with lots of interesting smells, sounds, wildlife and trees to climb! The Sykes monkeys are often located in the nature trail too, which seems to amuse Betsy as she likes to play chase with them through the trees and bushes. Where there is Sykes, there is usually colobus nearby too, so it is not unusual to spot one of the home troops resting in the nature trail as well. Because of these factors the nature trail is an ideal environment for Betsy to be in, as what she experiences when training in here will be beneficial towards her release with the wild troop in the future.
We currently have a baby genet at the Colobus Trust which was found a few weeks ago being played with by a troop of vervet monkeys at the Diani Reef Hotel. The genet was weak and exhausted and showed signs of nerve and muscular damage from the incident, along with a small wound on her front left paw.
The Trust took her in and has assigned three volunteers to act as foster mothers to care for the genet, who is fed Cerelac cereal mixed with milk, and egg yolk every four hours and water every two hours in-between. The baby is taking the food well and is growing, becoming stronger and more active. She is a beautiful animal who has surprised everyone with her recovery, so the members of the Trust decided to call her Maridadi, which means “beautiful” is Swahili. Despite Maridadi’s great recovery from her nerve and muscular injuries she is still being cared for and monitored very closely because she has taken up the habit of biting her front paw, where the small wound was. No one is sure why this is happening, however, during one of her feeds Maridadi caused further damage to her toes. The Trust patched her up and she now wears a cone around her head to keep her from biting. The wound healed well and she was getting more mobile day by day. During feedings her cone was taken off and she was watched closely as she was allowed to run around the volunteer space to stretch her legs. Unfortunately, very recently Maridadi sneaked in another bite while being allowed to run around without her cone on. The lasting damage is still unknown but she may lose a toe. Again, the Trust has treated the wound and is no longer taking off her cone for feedings which means she will struggle to move as much as before.
Regardless of the damage Maridadi is a lively little baby who is growing quickly and all of us here at the Trust hope she recovers swiftly and will learn to leave her paw alone. In fact, just this week Maridadi ate her first bits of chicken and may be graduating from baby food to a more natural genet diet. But as long as Maridadi has her cone on she cannot feed herself so volunteers must give her either food or water every two hours around the clock. It is a tiring job but worth it as we watch her grow. The thoughts now are that Maridadi will join the Trust as a resident animal. Once she is grown and can feed herself she will be allowed to have free roam of the area but will be fed here at the Trust to keep her from eating the neighbor’s chickens. Genets are nocturnal mammals, so once Maridadi is old enough to care for herself she will be out at night and sleeping during the day. For now we enjoy Maridadi’s playful spirit and are doing our best to keep her healthy and figure out how to break her dangerous habit of biting.
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By Molly Parren