Tag Archives: volunteer

My First Day

Kelly Martin arrived on March 1st and is here for six months as Betsy primary day carer. Read below for her first impressions of the Colobus Trust.

On my arrival I was welcomed firstly by the scorching heat and second by my very friendly taxi driver. The drive to Diani Beach took just under hour and half but went pleasantly fast. When I finally got to the Trust I was welcomed by Andrea the manager who had a young Colobus attached to her side called Betsy, who I will be fortunate enough to be working with over the coming 6 months.

I was shown to my room; it is a nice size with a maximum of 4 to a room and a shared bathroom. I was surprised by the available wardrobe space and the pleasant communal areas. I went on a tour shortly after, while the Trust is smaller than I had expected it is more than big enough for the animals it houses. The site is also frequent visited by wild baboons, Sykes monkeys and the black and white Angolan colobus by day and later at night bushbabies.

After I was shown all the work and living quarters and was introduced to some of the staff, I was shown the Beach, a minute walk from the volunteer house. It is breath taking with beautiful white sands and blue seas. I will enjoy spending my days off here as well as exploring the area. The whole time Betsy was with us sometimes running off to a new noise or catching something in her eye line to play with.

Later that day at dinner I was able to meet the other volunteers. The food was great and I was pleased to see there is a good variety of both traditional Kenyan and western food. I went to bed early to catch up on much needed sleep, from what I have seen today I think I will enjoy it here!

My volunteer experience at the Colobus Trust with Baby Betsy – Abi Walker

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.

Betsy at Forest School

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

Bahati the Bush Baby

Bahati the bush baby has been with us for about 3 and a half weeks now- he is doing very well and things are looking up. He has started feeding on solid foods lately which is a good sign; he particularly seems to like bananas and papaya a lot. At least every volunteer at the trust takes turns to feed him everyday because he needs to be cared for and feed every 3 hours. Bahati has recently learned how to jump which is very impressive and he is gets better by the day. We have built him a wooden house, where he spends most of his time these days. We are all glad that we have been able to provide a home and the necessary love and care that he needs, and hopefully he will grow up to be a healthy self reliant bush baby who will take his rightful place in the ecosystem.

We will keep you informed about how Bahati is faring on in the near future.

Thanks,

Mavinya

Colobologist

Bush Baby Update!

We have been nursing the two infant bush babies that were rescued here in Diani. They were so young that at first we were not sure whether they would both survive but we decided to try anyway. The first bush baby, who we eventually named Bahati (meaning luck in Swahili), was about 3 weeks old; the other one, who we named Gizmo, was about 2 days old. We all knew it was going to be a challenge, primarily because at their tender ages they critically need maternal care. We quickly included them into our daily schedule which meant they were always with someone who was feeding, cleaning or monitoring them. This was an eventful task because they had to be fed every 2 hours, 24 hours a day, needed to be watched and we also had to massage their genital area to facilitate defecation.

Everybody at the trust had already started to create a bond with Bahati and Gizmo, and they had become very comfortable around us but unfortunately the young Gizmo passed away last week after a week with us. He was just too young to survive without his mother’s care. We will continue to provide 24 hour care for Bahati who is doing very well and we will let you know how he is getting on.

The Colobus Team.

Bush Baby Galore!

There were two surprise arrivals at the Colobus Trust this week in the form of infant Bush Babies. The first, and larger of the two, was brought to the trust by a concerned resident of Diani, who had discovered the Bush Baby abandoned on his terrace. Only a day later, another bush baby found its way into the house here at Colobus Trust. It was Rob, one of the volunteers, who should be credited for rescuing the bush baby. Rob heard an unusual clicking sound coming from the education centre. On investigating, he found Nala- our resident cat- playing with the Bush Baby a corner of the room. Had it not been for Rob’s sharp hearing, the infant, which we believe to be just a few days old, would certainly have been eaten. Fortunately, Rob was able to pull Nala away before any serious harm was done.

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Above: The elder Bush Baby resting on Polly

Being nocturnal the Bush Babies (we believe these are Galago senegalensis) spend their day sleeping either in a large cardboard box along with a soft toy acting as a comforter, or held in a kikoi with one of the volunteers.  As luck would have it, the two bush babies are getting along together very well and could not be happier when snuggling up to one another for a nice long sleep.

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Above: The second arrival!

While Polly has taken the role of mother for the babies, everyone is doing their part in helping to feed and look after them. We are giving the Bush Babies round-the-clock care in order to ensure their survival and hope to be able to release them into the wild eventually.

Please feel free to post any suggestions for their names, or alternatively email them to info@colobustrust.org- we’d love to hear them.

Stay tuned for their progress!

The Colobus Team.

Road traffic strikes again…

Last Tuesday we responded to a series of reports about a Sykes monkey that had been involved in a traffic accident near Leopard Beach Resort. We had been told that it was a mother and an infant that had been hit. When we reached the site we discovered that the mother was very badly injured and only able to drag herself on her fore-legs. The infant was alive but unconscious when we got to her. We transferred the mother to the cage and Rob took the infant in his hands and we rushed back to the trust. The infant did not show any obvious external injuries and seemed to be breathing ok. About half way back to the trust the infant started gasping and, unfortunately, she had died by the time we had made it back. The mother was taken up to the vet clinic, where it was decided that she had broken her back and we were forced to put her down.

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Above: The mother and infant.

It is often the case that these deaths are accidental. It is known, however, that some people take matters into their own hands and speed up when they see a monkey in front of their car. It’s important that we work with the local community to make this minority of people understand the work that we do here at the trust, and how they can help us to help them for the future! Conserving the wildlife here will ultimately provide for them and their families through tourism.

These cases are sad enough to report but even more so for us as volunteers, as the infant was only slightly bigger than Erica (our orphaned Sykes) is now. The trust has already put up more signposts encouraging the adherence to the 50kmph speed limit as well as putting in speed bumps in problem areas. Let’s hope we can bring the number of road traffic incidents down even further than we already have.

Rob and Cara

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.

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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!

Rob

Colobologist

Getting Cagey

Erica, our orphaned monkey here at the Colobus Trust, has been spending the vast majority of her two months here in the company of humans. Now that she is getting bigger and more independent it is important that she spends less time with humans and more time with monkeys.

As part of the process or her being released into the wild, Erica has been spending more time in the rehabilitation cages with our older rescued Sykes monkey, SF1. They get on very well and so far have been happy to spend a few hours or more in each other’s presence. They play, jumping around on the ropes and branches that are there as part of their enrichment, as well as learning how to groom.

Erica and SF1

Above: Erica and SF1 eating in the cage

Our eco-volunteer Becky has been working on Erica’s tree-climbing skills and ensuring that the orphan has confidence in her abilities so that she climbs higher and more independently. Becky is also finding ways of introducing Erica to the food that she would eat in the wild, such as neem fruits.

We will build up the time that Erica spends in the cage and in the trees over the next month or so, in order that she relies less on human contact. The whole process of her release is likely to take up to a year, after which she will hopefully be fully wild.

Keep checking the blog for more updates on Erica and SF1!

The Colobus Team

Eric becomes Erica!

The orphaned baby Sykes monkey that Andrew reported on back in July is doing very well. After finding out she is in fact a girl, not a boy, the monkey has been renamed Erica instead of Eric!

After her initial struggle to survive, Erica has been going from strength to strength. In her first few weeks at the Colobus Trust, Erica was only drinking formula milk. However, in the last month we have added non-acidic fruits and vegetables to her diet. Her favourites are definitely mango and cucumber! What’s more, Erica has been venturing out into the trees at the Trust, exploring what she likes to eat in the wild. She was timid at first when it came to venturing on to the branches, but with a little tree-climbing on our part, she was soon clambering through the vegetation. The volunteers at the trust all enjoy being surrogate mothers to Erica, and take it in turns to have her sleep with them in order that she doesn’t become too attached to one person. In spite of this, our volunteer Michaela always gets preferential treatment from Erica!

dsc_0029-kopia.JPG Erica gets acquainted with the trees

Whether she is leaping around playing, suckling on an earlobe or lip, giving warning calls when there are baboons in the garden or even when she wants someone to groom her, Erica ensures that life here is always entertaining!

Watch out for an update on Erica’s next steps…..