Tag Archives: vervet

A Volunteers Experience with the Bridge Survey Research

Four weeks at Diani Beach is not enough. Originally I was only meant to be at the Colobus Trust for two weeks, but was very lucky to be able to extend my stay here. The time has absolutely flown by and we have definitely been kept busy with all the work to be done. Along with an introduction in the field to most of the regular Colobus Trust activities there have been many extra jobs for the staff and volunteers.

As a volunteer much of the last two weeks has been spent on the side of Diani Beach Road surveying the colobridges (Colobus monkey bridges). In pairs we are sent out for six hours to conduct a traffic survey and record the number of monkeys crossing the road using the bridges. It is valuable research for the Trust and so far seems to be proof that the colobridges are being used effectively. Although so far I have only seen the Sykes monkeys regularly using the bridges and not the colobus or vervet monkeys. Baboons on the other hand are regulars on the road and do not use the bridges, which causes a high risk of accidents. We have also learnt the hard way how to deal with baboons ourselves. After multiple lunches and snacks were stolen and feeling that we were being stalked and tormented by hungry baboons a little too close for comfort, we had to forgo taking packed lunches and deal with being hungry for a short while.

Enriching Lives

Jamie, one of our Eco-volunteers, wrote this blog about the enrichment program at the Colobus Trust, which aims to release ex-pet and orphaned monkeys back into the wild:

Monkeys in captivity must be tested and challenged. Here at the Trust we ensure that the monkeys under rehabilitation are actively using their brains whilst in captivity to help them succeed once they are released into the wild. Feeding the monkeys and learning about animal welfare are some of my favourite activities here at the Trust, so I was really looking forward to participating in the enrichment program.

One of our vervets has worked out how to get his food

One of our vervets has worked out how to get his food

This past week we prepared papier-mâché balloons and hid the monkeys’ food inside (like a piñata, just substituting the candy for fruit). Once it came to feeding time, we placed twelve of these “piñatas” in the cage and watched them try to tackle the problem. Some walked right by the piñata took a quick look inside and continued on. Others tore it in half and grabbed the mango inside, while some stuck their hands inside the holes and grabbed the food that way. Eventually every monkey was able to figure it out and enjoy their afternoon meal.

The Sykes monkey in rehabiltation searching for her food

The Sykes monkey in rehabiltation searching for her food

I always enjoy watching the monkeys eat, but observing the enrichment program made me really realize the importance of keeping the captive monkeys active.



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!


Hybrid news…

The Vervet-Sykes hybrid data collection has become rather frustrating recently as he become quite hard to find. When he has been found, the hybrid has still been looking quite battle-scarred! The old injury to his front leg seems to be still hurting him as he holds it at an odd angle and limps on it. He has recently also received a bite to his tail, which whilst being superficial looks quite painful. The bad gash to the hybrid’s rear leg, however, appears to be healing up really well- especially considering how bad it looked initially. In other good news, the hybrid has been groomed quite often by one of the female Sykes. Rob, ever dedicated, has collected a faecal sample which we will be sending off soon so that we can get a genetic profile for the hybrid.

The Colobus Team

What a way to behave!

In the last few days we have stepped up our data gathering on the potential Vervet/Sykes hybrid.

For the past three days the Sykes troop with which the hybrid associates has been located on the old nature trail at Leopard Beach Resort and Spa, close to the hotel’s southern boundary.

The hybrid can be differentiated from the rest of the troop by several factors. Its fur is much more Vervet-like in colour than that of the Sykes. The most obvious difference is that unlike Sykes monkeys but in common with Vervets it has blue balls. There is also the fact that it just looks a bit strange that makes it stand out. He is also currently carrying a few injuries which make him more readily identifiable. He has a cut on its left shoulder which he can often be seen trying to lick, as well as an older injury on his right front leg. The injury on his leg appears to be painful as he does not put his full weight on it and so limps along a little. A male Sykes in the troop also has a couple of recent injuries to its right shoulder and leg. Whether this is just a coincidence or the result of a fight between the two we don’t know.

The hybrid is almost always found on his own and often on the periphery of the troop. Although other Sykes do move relatively close to him, the closest recent social interaction that has been observed is when the hybrid moved up to and sat next to an adult female Sykes. However she walked away almost immediately when he did this.


Above: The hybrid at Leopard Beach

Due to the density of some of the low-level forest vegetation, maintaining visual contact and following the hybrid at times have proved to be challenging to say the least! Fortunately there appears to be a pattern with their movement over the last few days so it has often been possible to head them off at the pass, as it were. On a number of occasions the resort’s staff have also been very helpful in locating the hybrid when he has been out of sight.

Most of the observations recorded so far suggest that the main activities the hybrid engages in are grooming himself and resting. This may just be a result of the time the observations have been taken rather than due to other factors. Most primates indulge in the majority of their direct social interactions, such as grooming and playing, in the early morning and late afternoon. So far the recent observations have been taken from mid morning till about 1pm, this might explain the lack of social interactions between the hybrid and other members of the troop. Hopefully a couple of early morning starts will show if the hybrid does interact with any other monkeys.

The question is how did this potential hybrid arise? We think that the hybrid may be the result of greater interaction between the Vervets and Sykes caused by the continued reduction in the availability of suitable habitat for each troop. Further study is needed to reveal if this is indeed the case. For example, however, just yesterday the Sykes troop and a Vervet troop met up with each other on a grassy area in front of the resort’s Spa buildings. The two troops freely intermixed but only two cases of direct interaction were observed. A juvenile Vervet and a juvenile Sykes briefly approached each other and touched before walking away again and there was a small fight between a Vervet and Sykes. The Sykes troop is also often in proximity to a couple of different Colobus troops but no direct interaction has yet been seen.

At some stage we are planning to dart the hybrid so that we can take physical measurements and to obtain a DNA sample so that we can have a genetics test run. However because we are currently critically low on our resources required for darting, they are being reserved for welfare cases only at the moment.

Hope to give you more information soon!



Two Releases Double the Fun

Eventful days at the Trust this week, we were happy to release two of the primates we had in our care today. Our first case was that of a female Vervet monkey that came into our care about two months ago. She was found on the grounds of the Indian Ocean Hotel in Diani, with a severe head injury. At first we suspected she might be blind and paralyzed, but gradually with treatment and the help of veterinarian Dr. Oscar Rerieya she improved immensely each day, her vision was back, she could move her legs and the only remnant of her unfortunate accident was a little lameness in her left hind leg. Unfortunately in the process of rehabilitation she delivered a stillbirth, but on the bright side not having to care for a baby sped up her recovery. Today was the big day and Tom and John took Female Vervet back to her home territory. We were worried about the troop not accepting her back after such a long period of recovery, but no cause for alarm, she recognized her troop instantly and they welcomed her back as if she had never left.

 colobus monkey in clinic

Our other story is that of a feisty Colobus monkey that got himself badly injured in a fight with the resident male of his troop. Usually we try not to intervene in such ‘natural causes’ but his injuries were too severe and deep, if left untreated he would contract tetanus and die like many unlucky cases we had witnessed in the past. This time the team decided to put the cart before the horse and brought patient Colobus to our vet clinic, this is after some impressive tree climbing skills by John and Peter our field assistants. We proceeded to suture the wounds and give him a tetanus vaccine, to be on the safe side, after he had woken up he ate a good meal of flamboyant flowers and the next day we brought him back to Diani Reef hotel were we found him. Good luck monkeys!

vervet in cage  vervet out of cage

The Colobus Team

Baby Vervet’s Long Lost Brother

As two of our volunteers just left to continue their journey (former Trust-bloggers Tracey Stenson and Tim Jukes), another baby vervet monkey just came in. This baby is even smaller than the first one; approximately 2 weeks old and still in constant need of a surrogate mother holding him tight. He was found left alone just outside the bush, shocked and depressed, somehow abandoned by his mother way too early. After having introduced him successfully to our first baby vervet (about 1,5 months old), he moved into the same cage, and the two of them became friends. They cuddled, groomed each other, and spent the night sleeping in each other’s arms. The smallest baby vervet still has some problems being fed, since he hasn’t learned yet how to suck but to bite and scratch quite hard, but he is now hand-reared every 3 hours together with the other baby vervet, something that has turned out to be a good solution.


The bigger baby Vervet, though, shows good indications of growing independent. Partly, he has started chewing solid food, e.g. watermelon and banana instead of infant milk formula, and if he doesn’t like something you do to him, he truly shows that his teeth are developing. His world is getting bigger and bigger too: yesterday his exploring curiosity took him to new heights, as he climbed halfway up a big Neem tree. Usually, the Vervet mother pinches the baby when it climbs too far away from her, but as we couldn’t reach our baby Vervet he just kept on climbing, until he realized he wanted to get down again, which apparently wasn’t as easy as climbing up… We got him down by holding a long branch (with a piece of banana on top if it) so close to him that he could grab it. He even proved his bravery by mocking with Nala – the cat of the house, twice his size – a situation that resulted in Nala being chased away, surrendering.

However, it is a lot to do for the two volunteers that are left. The two babies need constant looking after and to be carried around and held, and at the same time there are regular tasks, like giving eco-tours for the tourists, keep on de-snaring and other field projects. We strongly feel the need of more volunteers joining us as currently there is a lot to do at the Trust. Fortunately, a couple living here in Diani just gave the information that they are going to adopt the two baby Vervets and build a rehabilitation cage in their garden for them.

Anna Sandahl, Filip Celander, Colobologists

A Bad Start to a New Month

As mentioned in the earlier blog we, sadly, had a record breaking month at the Trust in January and were all hoping that February would have a much lower incident rate.  Unfortunately, despite a quiet first few days, it now looks like this month may see no significant reduction in the number of primate deaths in Diani unless something changes- fast.

On Monday 2nd the Animal Welfare Team responded to a call about an adult Sykes which was suspected of being poisoned.  There were no obvious signs of injury but it seemed to be slightly paralyzed down its left side.  The vet treated him and over the next few days we regularly gave him Dextrose to keep him hydrated.  Unfortunately, although he looked like he was getting stronger; he died on Wednesday of Tetanus and was cremated in the afternoon.

On Thursday we had three new cases, the first one was a female Vervet which had a superficial injury on its right side, possibly from ‘in troop’ fighting.  The worrying thing was that although it certainly seemed more alert than the Sykes, it too was displaying paralysis in its left side and dragged its left leg.  Regrettably, she too died within 48 hours of being brought in to the Trust, another victim of Tetanus.

The second case, on the face of it, looks hopeful.  Just as the staff were finishing for the day a local resident pulled up with a small cardboard box with holes punched in the sides and there were some very strange noises coming from inside.

Call of Baby Vervet

When we opened the box a small Vervet face was looking up at us, an infant who had been brought all the way back from Tsavo (approximately 200km from Diani)!  It seems that the resident had been visiting and seen some children playing with the baby, its mother nowhere in sight, so had brought him to us for the correct care and attention. After a quick check up to ensure there were no obvious problems he was handed over to us, the volunteers, for feeding every 3 hours.  He’d had a long journey from home, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it is one which will have a happy ending.

Tim, one of the volunteers, feeding the Vervet

Almost immediately after we had given him a feed and got him settled with a hot water bottle for a surrogate Mum; another Sykes monkey was brought in.  Disappointingly this was another victim of a road traffic accident.  We haven’t taken any photos as the whole face had been torn open with a large gash from forehead to mouth and the prognosis didn’t look hopeful.  Just the shock of what was obviously such a high speed impact would have been enough to prove fatal.  We called the vet to treat her and followed his direction for after care but unfortunately when we checked in the morning she had died.

Three-hourly feeding of the baby Vervet continued and late in the afternoon of Friday a juvenile Sykes was brought in, a further RTA victim.   This guy looked in bad shape and after a visiting vet had looked him over the diagnosis was possible internal bleeding with regular check ups required through the night.  Unfortunately this was much too traumatic for the small Sykes and he died the next day.  After such an investment of time and emotions it can be hard to accept.

Anna (Volunteer) with the Juvenile Sykes

On Monday two more dead monkeys were found.  One, on the road not far from the Trust, had obviously been killed on impact by a hit and run driver.  Thankfully a resident had called to let us know what had happened.  The other, a victim of electrocution that will be investigated further.

Despite all these sad stories the baby Vervet continues to go from strength to strength (if his bite is anything to go by).  And although he does require a lot of care and attention, as all babies do in the early months, we have to think that he will have a long future ahead of him.  To dwell too much on the trauma of him being taken from his mother, or indeed what her fate might have been, does not help remedy the situation and we are doing what we can to find him a suitable home where he can play and learn with other monkeys.

Only with your continued help, support and donations can the Trust continue to provide care for injured monkeys and monkeys in need of rehabilitation.  If you are planning a holiday why not plan the experience of a lifetime and come to volunteer at the trust.  You will be helping to prolong the life of the primates in Diani.

Baby Vervet after trying some banana

Tracey Stenson, Colobologist

New Admission: Rehabilitating Bush Baby

At The Colobus Trust, the phone often rings with news of dead or suffering animals that have been involved in road accidents or electrocuted on power lines.  So on Thursday 8 January it was a more pleasant surprise to receive a call about an animal that wasn’t injured but still needed our help.

The call was from a local resident about a bush baby she had been rearing as a pet for about a year.  Its wild instincts had started to kick in and it had bitten her earlier in the day so she decided it was time for the Colobus Trust to get involved.

Peter, Tim and I went round to pick it up and found it in a laundry basket – not the sort of place a bush baby is likely to feel most at home.  We brought it back to the vet clinic to give it a once over and it seemed particularly annoyed so it went straight into a carrier cage.

Peter handling the bush baby in the vet clinic

Over the next couple of days we worked to make one of the rehabilitation cages suitable in the quarantine area.  These cages are designed with larger primates in mind and Peter had once put a bush baby in and it was able to escape.  We had to reduce the hole size by winding wire around each individual opening to make the cage more secure.

To help save resources, and as a poetic form of recycling, we were able to use snare wires which have been collected from local forests over the past months to complete the job.  It was a long job but finally the cage was complete.

Adapting the cage

On Tuesday we were able to furnish the cage with a selection of foliage and branches from trees in the garden to enable the bush baby to have adequate cover during the day and to provide leaves to make a nest for sleeping.

Then came the transfer; true to form he was not happy at being woken in the middle of the day just to move into another cage.  Finally in he snarled and hissed at us in such a way that you wouldn’t think we had saved him from a life of captivity. Although they look cute and cuddly they can be very aggressive.

A new home

He seems to have settled in much more now and is certainly happier than he was.  The plan is to begin opening the cage in the evenings so he can go out exploring.  However it is uncertain whether he can be released in to the gardens here permanently.

Bush babies usually form small groups of mother and offspring or occasionally small bachelor groups.  The males use urine to mark boundaries of their territories and can be aggressive to intruders.  At the cottage there are already a group of bush babies which come to feed in the evenings so only time will tell if he will be accepted.

Because of this there are added pressures on the Trusts resources to continue feeding him until he is ready to be released; this is in addition to the seven vervet monkeys which continue to be housed at the Trust until they have built up the skills to survive back in the wild. The vervets are also rescued pets, some of whom have been with us over a year.

Any donations would be welcome to help with the upkeep of the bush baby or the vervet monkeys; while we try to feed them on wild foods when possible, in the dry season the possibility reduces so more supplemented food is required, all of which needs money to buy.  You can help us by using the “donate” button on the right hand side of this blog. All money donated goes directly towards helping support the Colobus Trust and helping us do such work.

On the road to release

Like other non-human primates, bush babies are considered likely sources of diseases that can cross species barriers and so they are not a good idea when considering a pet.  They are wild animals and while they may seem very cute, they have sharp teeth and can inflict a painful bite. Better to choose a cat or dog which have been domesticated specifically for this purpose.

Tracey Stenson, Colobologist

(Photos by Tim Jukes)