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
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
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
Looking for and removing snares is a vital and regular piece of work for staff and volunteers at the Trust. Hunting is illegal in Kenya after being banned in 1977, but we know that some forms of hunting still carry on. One way of hunting small animals in forests is to lay a snare on the ground. The snares can be loops of wire tied around trees or spring traps which lie covered on the ground and then catch the animal and snap it into the air if it happens to walk over it. These traps are laid by poachers to capture Suni antelope, dik dik, bush pig, and other animals. Monkeys also get trapped in these snares although they are not set to catch them intentionally.
The skull found in the forest
On one regular visit to a forest near the Flamboyant hotel we had a grisly find. In the undergrowth, we found a wire snare that still had a skull attached to it. A Suni had got caught with the snare around its neck and there was evidence of burnt skin and fur attached. We can only guess that the animal was burnt when a section of forest caught fire, but we don’t know if it was still alive at the time.
The Suni was still attched to the wire snare
On another day a group of us were out looking for snares in Kaya Ukunda. Kayas are sacred forests, which are under increasing pressure due to human population pressures and lack of respect for elders of the tribes who look after the Kayas. Within minutes of entering the forest, we had all found some snares. Much to our horror, a few minutes later we also found some of the men who were probably responsible for laying them! A group of at least five or six men came walking past us on the forest trail, carrying arrows and full sacks on their backs. We kept walking but then realised there were more hunters in the forest as we could hear the two groups were communicating with each other through a series of whistles. The second group also started making their way towards us and being heavily outnumbered we headed off in a different direction. While we were unable to take any action at the time the encounter will be reported and we will continue to make desnaring trips to Kaya Ukunda.
Yesterday the Colobus Trust team went for a desnaring exercise in the Jadini forest. The forest belongs to the Alliance Jadini Hotel and is situated near to the trust. The hotel has allowed the Colobus Trust to create a nature trail within the forest in order to protect it and also to educate tourists on the local wildlife. Desnaring is an exercise which is done on a weekly basis by the Colobus Trust to discourage and prevent poachers from trapping and injuring wildlife. The snares are typically set for catching Suni and other small antelope but unfortunately the local primates in Diani are typical victims of these traps too. They are relatively simple devices which cause a noose to loop around any animal unfortunate to cross their path. These devices are brutally ineffective in that they trap and seriously injure animals and then leave them to suffer in great pain until they die or the poachers return. Sometimes the animal can break away with the snare still attached to them, in which cases the snare continues to embed itself in the animal causing pain, potential limb loss and even death. (see previous blog)
Above: Peter spots a snare
The task in hand was relatively simple. We needed to clear as many of the snares as possible.
Our day began with a brief background and training on the exercise for the day, followed by a sweep of the route that the eco-tour will take. The area we were exploring was very dense which we thought would make it very difficult to find the snares. Unfortunately, it was all too easy to find them due to the sheer numbers that were around, although Peter’s sharp eyes did help! However, it was more likely to be a sign of the quantity of poaching which continues to take place. In all, we found 17 snares within a relatively small area (clearly a hot spot for poaching), which is worrying when considering how many snares might be laid in Diani. Included in our snare haul were five spring traps. These are snares that are attached to a bent stick which springs back when the snare is triggered pulling its unfortunate victim into the air and suspending them there. Nearby we also found a skull from a Colobus monkey that we fear may well have been a victim to a snare due to its size and dentition.
Above: Rob removes a snare
We hope the nature trail will be up and running within the next few days and that we will be able to keep the trail and all of Diani as snare free as possible.
Thanks for your continued interest in the Colobus Trust!
Rob, Dougie and Mavinya