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.
A few weeks ago, we got a call from Camp Kenya about an injured male Sykes that was limping on its right front hand. When we arrived on the scene and after assessing the situation, John set about darting the monkey in order to treat its injuries. This particular Sykes monkey was very intelligent and managed to dodge the dart several times, but we finally managed to capture him. It was at this point that we discovered the reason for its obvious discomfort was because it had a snare embedded its flesh. We quickly took him back to the Trust clinic in order to take out the snare and wash the wound, and then to treat the lesion on his mouth that had arisen from trying to get the snare off. We successfully removed the snare that had fixed itself deeply into the monkey’s flesh, cleaned the abrasion and gave him some antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicine to deal with the infection.
The lesion on the Sykes' mouth and snare around its hand
We kept the monkey in the cage for 3 days for observation and when we saw that the healing process had begun to take place, we took him back to where he was captured and released him back to the wild. The release was successful.
The snare removed and the wound cleaned
Snares are a big problem here in Diani, simply because the locals set the snares to trap the small Suni antelope for bushmeat. Unfortunately, monkeys fall victim to the traps as well which either results in their death or leaves them with deformities. We have therefore put measures in place to mitigate the snare menace. Firstly, we try to educate the locals on the dangers and disadvantages of putting up the snares, especially with our education program with local schools. Secondly, we have a desnaring program where staff and volunteers go into the forest in Diani and physically remove the snares and traps that have been set. Desnaring saves the lives of forest creatures and promotes sustainability of fauna in Diani.
After four weeks at the Colobus Trust, it’s almost time for me to fly home to another UK winter. I’ve had a fantastic time here and have been encouraged by the dedication and passion of the team for the colobus monkey and the local ecology as a whole.
During my time here I have enjoyed building colobus bridges, giving eco-tours to tourists and local children, undertaking colobus checks in the local forest and completing the 2009 Monkey Census in Diani and Gongoni forests.
One of the most eye opening experiences has been undertaking de-snaring searches. During one visit we found 12 snares along a 2km transect! It is worrying to think that without the efforts of the trust each of those snares could have caught or injured an animal.
Kenya is a magical place and each day brings new experiences. Like so many before me, I think I might be hooked!
On Wednesday afternoon staff and volunteers from the Colobus Trust completed a 3-day census of Colobus monkeys in the Gongoni Forest Reserve. WWF had given us a small amount of funding to conduct the census, which would use the Colobus monkey as an indicator of the quality of the forest. We had rangers from the Kenya Forest Service with us who were armed with rifles to protect us from buffalo, and locals with pangas (machetes) to help us navigate through the forest.
We were divided into three groups and given GPSs with a coordinate which we would attempt to follow down to the other edge of the forest in a straight line. The first day was extremely dense and thick because it was all secondary growth forest. Everyone battled their way through the undergrowth, sometimes crawling, and it took one group 2 hours to cover 1 km. Some Colobus were seen but everyone was hoping for more!
The second day of the census was definitely not what we were expecting it to be. Immediately off the bat poaching camps and snares were found. The Gongoni Forest has become really thin due to illegal cutting, mostly by local poachers who chop down large trees and sell the wood for house-building or furniture-making. Whilst making their way through the woods, one of our teams came across a group of poachers who were in the middle of cutting up trees. The forest ranger with them told the team to be quiet and to get down. They waited whilst the ranger snuck up on the poachers and then shouted at them to put their hands above their head and get on the ground. One man escaped but the other was caught. The ranger marched him out off the forest along with the census team and they met up with another census team at the other end of the transect. Both of the rangers wanted to be the ones to bring the poacher in which meant that our census activities for the day came to an abrupt end. Both teams walked with the guards and the poacher to a meeting point where a police truck was going to come and pick them up. On the way, the guards spotted another poacher with an even larger bundle of wood. They sprinted after him and one of them fired a blank to scare the poacher. Before everyone knew it there were two poachers handcuffed and waiting under a tree to be picked up.
On the third day, some transects had to be modified in order to complete the census on time due to the fact that the poachers on the day before had set us back. Two teams completed two 3.5 km transects but one of these teams saw no monkeys at all! Far too many poaching camps and garages (where poachers chop the wood) were discovered. It was sad to realize how hard the Kenya Forest Service’s job is and how ineffective some methods may be at preventing poaching.
It was a relief for most to finish their last transects and escape the heat and humidity of the woods. Those days spent in the forest were difficult work! Making the way through lots of heavy bush, vines and thorny branches did not make travel very easy. Despite it all, the volunteers are happy that they had the experience but are thrilled to get back to normal days at the trust!
We’ll give you the results of our census as soon as we can!
Thanks for reading,
And The Colobus Team
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
Once again we have another tragic tale to report: the untimely death of a juvenile Colobus. This time the Colobus was hit and killed instantly by a car on the Diani main road. The car was not speeding; it was just a case of the Colobus deciding to cross the road at the wrong time.
Above: The size and injury to the Colobus is shown
Probably the most shocking aspect of this death, however, was the state that the Colobus was in before it died. Embedded in its abdomen was a snare that had clearly been there for some time. Here is a demonstration that the illegal use of snares in the forests to catch Suni not only affects the Suni but also other fragile species. In order to reduce the frequency of this happening the Colobus Trust regularly carries out de-snaring in the area. Only last week 6 snares were found by Peter in the Jardini forest, just where the Colobus was hit.
Above: The snare embedded in the abdomen
Our thanks to Darren and Emma of Ngiri’s Bar and Restaurant for reporting the incident to the trust.
Let’s hope with our continued work and your generosity we can stop this happening!
One of the activities we carry out regularly at the Trust is de-snaring in the local Kayas (sacred forests). The use of snares within a Kaya is illegal; however when the locals find themselves in hard times feeding their family becomes top priority and setting snares is still seen as one way to do this.
Snares set in the forests are almost invisible, looking like the trailing creepers from vegetation. They are set low in the ground, along animal trails and any animal using that route can become trapped. As they struggle to free themselves the snare pulls tightly around their neck killing them slowly and painfully.
At least once a week, staff and volunteers spend hours walking through the forests looking for these indiscriminate killers and removing them. For the Trust, eliminating these snares is an important project. Our main aim is protecting any monkeys which are foraging for food on the forest floor from being trapped and killed. Of course this also helps to reduce deaths of Suni antelope which are the intended prey of the local hunters.
Unfortunately we were unable to save one Suni which was found in a snare not far from the main Diani road. A resident found her dead in a snare; a distressed baby near-by. The resident was too late to save the mother but brought the baby to one of our Trustees, Luciana, who has successfully hand-reared other Sunis before. One of these previously rescued antelopes (very aptly named ‘Suni’), now lives with her and has free roam of the garden and small forest plot.
Over the next few days Luciana watched as the new baby (‘Bambi’) began to calm down and deal with the trauma she had experienced in her own way. Luciana was able to bottle feed her and Bambi stopped shaking and began to find some confidence in her surroundings.
In the last few days Bambi has begun to venture outside, watched over by Suni and Luciana. Suni antelopes are unsurprisingly self-protective as in the wild they have a large number of natural predators and Bambi has already perfected her camouflage techniques, hiding when it is time to go back indoors. The scent glands on the side of her nose have started to develop and she seems to be growing up fast. In a couple more weeks Luciana hopes that Bambi too can live outside permanently and start to lead as normal a life as will be possible for her. Fortunately, she has a friend she can learn from and who will look after her, whether she appreciates the attention or not.
At the Trust we will continue with the relentless de-snaring programme and talking to the local people about the cost of setting snares. Only yesterday we were in a Tiwi forest with a group of Camp Kenya volunteers where we found 25 snares. The programme has been effective in reducing the number of snares set over the past years however there is obviously more work to be done. As long as the Trust continues to receive support we will be out there removing the snares from the forests.
Tracey Stenson, Colobologist