The rare colobus monkeys in Diani and Kwale are under threat by ongoing development activities.

According to the Diani-based Columbus conservation group, habitat destruction is the greatest threat to the primates.

The Kenya Wildlife service now considers the Angolan black and white colobus monkeys as nationally threatened.

The monkeys, KWS says, face risks such as poaching, habitat loss, attacks by people, reduced wild prey base, misconceptions and diseases.

Unlike other monkeys known for destruction on food crops, colobus do not attack farms, experts say.

“Colobus monkeys are not destructive at all. They can get into a farm and do nothing, they feed on leaves. Let’s protect them and other primates,” says the colobus conservation group head John Buckley.

Their habitats include primary and secondary forests and wooded grasslands.

Their ruminant-like digestive systems enable the leaf-eaters to occupy niches that are inaccessible to other primates.

Colobus live in territorial groups of about nine individuals, led by a single male with and a bevy of females and their offspring.

They play a key role in seed dispersal through their sloppy eating habits, conservationists say.

In Kenya, the primates are mainly found in the coastal forests and isolated mountains.

The south Coast areas of Diani and Shimba Hills have the highest populations of colobus monkeys in Kenya.

Shimba Hills has the largest population of population of about 1,500 colobus monkeys.

Diani, where the conservation group is based, has the second largest population with about 400 in a stretch of seven kilometres.

These populations are now under threat. The colobus corridor has been affected with over 80 per cent of the Diani’s forest cover being lost to developments in the last 25 years.

The forest loss and degradation is continuing due to pressures from agricultural expansion, urban development, tree cutting for firewood, charcoal, carving wood and clearance for mining.

The monkeys are also hit by cars and many times electrocuted by power lines.

The colobus conservation group has however taken several measures to reduce road traffic injuries by setting up canopy bridges along the main Diani road.

The 32 canopy bridges spread along the Diani stretch have become part of the monkeys’ lives since they were erected in 1997, forming much safer critical road crossing points.

The group regularly trims trees along power lines and helps insulate naked electricity lines in conjunction with Kenya Power.

“These bridges have reduced incidents of primate electrocutions by power lines, being hit by cars and attacks from human beings,” says Andrea Donaldson, a conservation expert at the Diani Colobus Conservation project.

Under its conversation project, the group has also set up a veterinary clinic

The group says even the Vervet monkeys, the most common in Kenya, are often hit by cars.

The monkeys are treated at the clinic and rehabilitated at the conservation centre until they are fit to be released to the forests.

“We work with the local community who call us whenever a monkey is injured or orphaned. We bring them to our clinic where they are treated and observed before being set free again,” said Buckley.

Now conservationists are worried that the country may lose these monkeys if proper measures are not put in place.

“We are certainly facing the threat of losing these monkeys outside of protected areas if proper measures are not put in place,” said Buckley.

The primates are also a prey of many forest predators and poachers target them for meat trade and their beautiful skin.

Their distinctive appearance has given them a unique place in local cultures and their reducing numbers is partly because they have long been hunted for the skin.

Courtesy of the-star.co.ke

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