On the 9th of September 2008 the Colobus Trust and Camps International worked in collaboration with the Kenya Power and Lighting Company to insulate two of Diani’s Primate Electrocution Hotspots. Now, nearly 3 month later we are looking for the next step.
The pilot project has been a great success. Over 400 meters of cables were insulated and there are holding strong and showing no sign of deterioration after the burning sun and heavy rains they have experienced. There have also been no incidents of electrocution along them. Below is a picture.
Since completing the pilot project we have been in talks with KPLC. They pledged to cover the costs of insulating the hotspots in a meeting held in August and we have been waiting to see action on their part. It was at this meeting that they also stated that they could be left to deal with the insulation of the transformers we had identified within the “hotspots”. In the last month we have been reassured that KPLC are still going to live up to their promise. We have, however, been asked to wait for them to go through their length procurement process. The events that occurred the other day have, however, confirmed our decision to move on to insulating the rest of the hotspots and hope that the funding comes through at a later date.
The events that convinced us to take this risky step occurred in the evening of Monday the 1st of December. When the Colobus Trust Animal Rescue Unit received the first electrocution alerts it has had in the last 5 months. What was most shocking was that both incidents were on hotspots and that three cases happened within half an hour of each other.
The first case involved two members of the Leisure Lodge Hotel Colobus Troop. This troop has been decimated by one particular transformer, which in my 14 months has claimed four, but now possibly six, troop member’s lives. In my opinion the transformer is as badly placed as is humanly possible. It is located next to a tin roofed building (see below) at a perfect level to appear as a “step” up to the trees and is easily accessible. Sadly, we turned up to the hotel the staff had not followed our instructions and followed the injured monkeys so we could therefore locate the individuals and tell how badly the injuries were. The troop is now being followed and if injuries are bad enough to warrant capture we will act. Thankfully the Leisure Lodge management have pledged to help finance the insulation of the hotspot on their site.
The second case was a female Colobus who was found under the power lines at another of our hotspots in Diani. She was brought in to us whilst we were out on the first call. She had an open wound on her chin and her body temperature was way above 40°C. We treated her immediately and were surprised by her strength. The next day we prepared a cage with lots of branches and food for her but sadly she died during the course of the day. This is often the way electrocution cases go, as internal burns are hard to diagnose.
This sudden burst of electrocution cases confused many at the Trust. As it has become apparent, through our years of data collection, that primate electrocution cases are more common around the new-year period. The reasons for this are unproven, but it is my opinion that the increased amount of pedestrian traffic caused by Diani’s “peak season”, when tourists flock to Diani’ Hotels. Where nearly all of the remaining forest and hotspots are found. This increase in movement on the ground makes timid primates, something the Colobus is renowned for, less likely to come to the ground and they therefore choose pathways through trees, where they are more likely to come into contact with live electricity. This theory also explains why there was a noticeable “lull” in primate electrocutions in the aftermath of post-election violence, when all hotels were nearly, if not completely empty. Below is a map showing the un-insulated hotspots in red and the insulated ones in blue. Note how they are all in the coastal stretch, where the hotels are located.
The events of this week have served as a reminder, to all of us, that immediate action is needed to avoid the horrible suffering Diani’s primates, such as the one pictured below, are put through. The Colobus Trust and Camps International are pressing ahead with the project, without waiting for KPLC to fulfil their side of the deal (though we have been assured, that they will). We are sending out assessment teams to each of the properties within one of our hotspots on it. The teams will come up with an inspection report for each site, detailing the intended work and asking the landowner/proprietor to provide funding for the project.
We will keep you updated on all progress made.