THE COLOBUS MONKEYS

 

A road accident at Diani of the South Coast to Mombasa

 

It was the low tide during the breakfast time so we decided to get after some other chores before the tide comes back. We would go down to the beach to relax in our reserved long-chairs under a parasol of palm leaves later. With the incoming tide we be would able to wade into the sea close our favorite secluded cove. It was decided that Ljiljana should go shopping to the nearby bazaar some 300m outside of Resort’s gate. When she left the restaurant I went to our room to prepare everything for our usual daytime routine at the Diani beach. It stretches all along the Leisure Lodge Resort compound that is our favorite place for many years now. We were spending our winter holidays mostly in January like this time in 2005 too.

 

Some hours passed for me waiting in the room so I got concerned about my wife too long absence. I went to meet my wife at the hotel lobby as she might have been delayed for some reason at shopping mall. The way to the lobby is not a short one though and it takes more time due to the increasing heat and humidity. I have worried about Ljiljana as she had a knee replacement surgery some months ago so she could not stroll in her usual vigorous way yet. At last I met her almost out of breath at the concierge’s desk talking on phone to somebody. Few moments later she told about what has happened on the main road outside the compound and why she looks so troubled now.

                   

She had to pass by wood carver’s stalls on her way back from the bazaar. As she was talking to few carvers she knows well for years out she heard startlingly a thump as if a car hit something soft. An animal whimper followed it instantly and when turning she saw two Colobus monkeys rushing into the nearby bush. Behind a smaller monkey the second larger animal limped and swayed obviously being the stricken one. Ljiljana run as fast she could after the car shouting after the driver to stop his car. At last the car stopped so she caught up with it exhausted and perspiring profusely. Nonetheless she was still strong enough to shout at the driver who got out of his car somehow amazed why a white lady got so excited. He was an Englishman on holiday and obviously had not noticed or did not care for that he run over a Colobus monkey. The Colobus monkeys are the endangered species in southern Kenyan coastal forest regions.


A mature Colobus monkey sits on flagstones of  the hotel  footpath.

After a few moments of utter confusion the tempers cooled down a little bit so Ljiljana suggested to call in the local Primate’s Conservation office for help. One of the wood-carvers joined in and offered to show the unfortunate driver to the office that was about a mile down the road only. Ljiljana picked up her shopping bags and returned to the hotel to phone the Office alerting them regarding the accident. This was the moment when I saw her talking on the phone to somebody of the Colobus Trust that is known under the name: WAKALUZU. In did not last long when one young professional came looking for her and told her that they found a Colobus female near the place it run into bush. However the infant could not be traced. The monkey was so badly bruised that by the first diagnosis there was little hope for its survival due to doubtless severe internal injuries.

 

The local Primate’s Conservation is known under the name WAKULUZU: FRIENDS OF THE COLOBUS TRUST. The WAKALUZU is a native name for the Colobus monkeys given by the local Digo people who leave in Diani region. For one Colobus one says MKULUZU whereas many of are called WAKALUZU. Nowadays one calls the Colobus monkey MBEGA in the local colloquial. For those interested the address of the COLOBUS TRUST is stated at the end of this report.
 

       

A young Colobus (Toto Mbega) sits on steps in the Hotel and a mother feeds its still white offspring (at right) .


Two days later Ljiljana has found a young Colobus (a small animal is colloquially called TOTO) that sat shaking below a staircase. Alarmed Ljiljana run to the concierge to call Wakaluzu’s Office and truthfully two young people appeared within some 20 minutes. In the meantime somebody brought a cartoon box with few holes cut in for air to place in the monkey. One of the conservationist put small animal gently in the box explaining that the tiny creature was rather dehydrated and undernourished too. He thought that this was the child of the female Colobus that died soon after it was taken away. The prospects for survival for the young one were extremely low too.

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What we should know about the  

 

ANGOLAN BLACK AND WHITE COLOBUS (Colobus angolensis angolensis)

 

Colobine monkeys (Family Cercopithecidae; Subfamily colobinae) are found in Africa and Asia. African species include the Olive, Red and Pied ones. The Pied Colobus include the Black, Western Pied, Angola Pied, Geoffrey’s Pied and the Guereza.

 

More than 400 Angolan Colobus monkeys have been identified at the Diani region of the South Coast of Mombasa – the highest concentration of this species. Overall some 2000 species are estimated in the ICUN (World Conservation Union) red data list so the Angolan Colobus is considered as the largely endangered in Kenya. The Colobus Trust were the first ever completed in Kenya believing that the species declining number results from the forest fragmentation along the Coast.


   
Angolan black & white Colobus monkeys photographed at Naivasha Lake (Western Kenya).

The Angolan black and white Colobus monkey has black hair with a white brow band, cheeks, and throat. Long haired white epaulettes stream from the shoulders. The lower part of the tail is white as is the band on the buttocks. The Palliatus subspecies can be found in the southern Kenyan coastal forests and the northern Tanzanian highlands only. Previously it lived along the entire coast but the deforestation in the northern parts has resulted in their restriction to isolated pockets of forests south of
Mombasa. Another subspecies the Guereza black and white Colobus live in the western upcountry and are much bigger having longer coats and a full cape of white hair around their backs with a full bushy white tail.

 

The Angolan Colobus monkeys are diurnal, have flattened nails and  pads on their buttocks, and their hind legs are longer than their fore limbs as a typical characteristics of old world monkeys. However, the specific features of “Colobines” are due to their unique dietary adaptations. Colobus eat mostly leaves (and some fruits and flowers), have no cheek pouches, are arboreal and rarely come down to the ground. They have a light-weight bone structure and elongated limbs and have no thumbs though they retain an opposable big toe. The reduction of the thumb is an adaptation to arboreal living as the fingers have become aligned into a single, narrow curved arc that allows the hand to act as a flexible hook. In fact the Colobus acquired its name from the Greek word "kolobos" meaning maimed or mutilated.

 

The diet of a Colobus consists of young and mature leaves of mainly 5 available sorts. Due to the poor nutritional quality the monkeys have to browse in intensively for many hours per day. They digest 2 to 3kg of leaves per day (one third of their full body weight), and also eat seeds, unripe fruits and flowers. In Diani region the Colobus are rarely a pest to the tourists since they do not eat human food and hang around in the tree canopy. Also the Colobus are a true "flagship" species upon which one can determine the overall health of the forest.


     
A mother Colobus holds its suckling white infant aka Toto (Photo R. Teske)

Infants are born strikingly white, and then turn gray and black. By three months of age they turn to the adult coloration of black and white. They are born throughout the year but a birth peak is seen in September and October. Colobine infants are known for their flamboyant coloration, which is remarkably different than the adult. This is considered an adaptation for encouraging the “Aunt’s behavior” where other females in the group are attracted to the newborn and spend time caring for the young. This supposedly frees up maternal time for feeding. To Colobine the nutritional value of their diet is low and the stresses of rearing offspring put enormous pressure on the female. The “Aunt’s behavior” thus counteracts the burden of nursing. Females remain in their natal troops for life. The dominant male defends the territory and troop from predators whereas the dominant female leads the troop. Young males leave their natal troop to start bachelor groups or to travel alone until they are able to take over their own troop.

 

THE ENVIRONMENT OF DIANI

 

Diani Beach, situated 30km south of Mombasa, is home to a diverse array of wildlife. There are four species of diurnal primates: the Angolan black-and-white Colobus, yellow baboon, vervet monkey, and the Sykes monkey as well as two species of nocturnal primate, the thick-tailed bush-baby and the lesser one. The Angolan Colobus monkey is a rare sight in Kenya and could found in the coastal forests South of Mombasa only.  Diani has the highest concentration of the Angolan Colobus in Kenya (60 troops, with approx. 400 individuals). The coastal coral-rag forest in which the Colobus lives is now heavily degraded of which some 75% of has been destroyed in the last 20 years. There is one game park like Shimba Hills National Park only.

 

A survey carried out by the Colobus Trust in 18 local hotels and cottages in October 2002. Despite the hotels having erected “Do not feed the monkeys” signs, approx. one fifth of guests were still offering them food. The reasons for this vary: some tourists did it because they had the misconception that the monkeys were starving while others did it for sheer amusement. Feeding monkeys, directly or indirectly, makes them bold and of­ten aggressive. Also hotels complain that the monkeys­keys are causing losses through destruction of property and stealing of food.


      
Mature Colobus monkey aka Mkaluzu (colloq. Mbega) eat fresh young leaves in hotels garden.


If you have been to Diani, you surely would have seen “Colobridges” - the ladders that span the Diani Beach Road from tree top to treetop. Currently there are 23 bridges scattered along a twelve kilometer stretch by end of 2003. The current “Colobridges”, a second generation design as an innovative solution to combat the high rate of mortality of primates in Diani due to road traffic accidents. Early in 2004 a study of sixteen of these bridges was carried out to see how effective “Colobridges” are and the study provided rather interesting results!


Non-insulated power lines are numerous in Diani. As tree branches often come into contact with the power lines, primates, and particularly the Angolan Colobus who are almost exclusively arboreal, use the power lines as an easy way of crossing from one area to another. All the main lines in Diani of 22,000 volts are non-insulated and many primates are killed instantly when crossing between lines. Even the domestic lines of 240 volts often injure an animal through loss of limb leading to a high number of secondary fatalities caused by infection. In fact a small proportion of these lines are insulated­lated.


    
Two closeup pictures of mature monkeys in hotel's garden and sitting on a handrail at right.


The collaboration between Colobus Trust and KPLC (Kenya Power Lines Co.) resulted in weekly tree-trimming around power lines. Despite the successful reduction of the overall number of deaths and injuries in 2003 the electrocutions still accounted for 1/3 of all recorded primate fatalities in Diani. Since March 2004 one began the tree trimming with a more tar­targeted approach by identifying electrocution hot spots. One concentrated with the tree trimming in these areas. In year 2004 there were only fifteen electrocutions in total, eight less then the previous year. Fourteen of these though, have been Colobus monkeys. With only 1800 Angolan black and white Colobus monkeys remaining in
Kenya, of which 450 are in Diani, the tree trimming project becomes even more urgent.


Literature
:  DIANI’S MONKEYS by R. Eley and P. Kahumbu,

                    © Robert Eley and Paula Kahumbu, Nairobi, Kenya;

                    ISBN: 92-91-46-027-3.

 

Address:      WAKULUZU: FRIENDS OF THE COLOBUS TRUST,

                    P.O. Box 5380, 80401 Diani Beach, Kenya

                    Tel/Fax: + 254 (0) 40 320 3519

                    Email:  info@colobustrust.org

                    Website: http://www.colobustrust.org


   

 

 


DISCLAIMER : On URL: http://www.cosy.sbg.ac.at/~zzspri/ published pages are originals and authorized by copyright of Zvonko Z. Springer, Salzburg 1999.

Email Zvonko Springer at : zzspri@aon.at