A few years back a beautiful video of these Colobus Monkeys jumping through the tree tops caught my attention.
When you see something black with flashes of white ‘flying’ through the trees it’s most likely a Colobus Monkey.
Probably one of the prettiest monkeys. Their white flowing fringe and long tasseled tail really sets them apart. Besides that, the Colobus Monkeys don’t have a thumb like other monkeys do.
The Colobus Conservation Trust is located on a popular stretch of beach south of Mombasa, Kenya. The community of Diani, with its white beaches, warm water and intriguing tidal pools attracts tourists from around the world. Among all the human activity, and what’s left of the natural habitat, Colobus monkeys make their home.
According to Kelly, the manager of the Colobus Conservation Trust, over the last 20 years their education efforts have paid off. Unlike Vervets who constantly get themselves in trouble with humans, the Colobus is not deemed a pest. Colobus don’t raid open kitchens and sneak food off picnic tables like their grey cousins. Addressing human wildlife conflict issues has been and still is a major focus for the Colobus Conservation Trust.
During our days camping on the beach both Colobus and Vervets were present. While Vervets grabbed a bag of potatoes from our neighbor and romped through the rubbish bins every morning, Colobus monkeys stayed high up in the trees feeding on wild fruit. This of course makes it much easier for the folk at the Colobus Conservation Trust to convince their neighbors and surrounding communities to leave the Colobus be.
Their biggest threat to survival is habitat loss. Kelly and her team, like Moses in Uganda, spend much time talking to people in Diani and surrounding areas to preserve the trees.
On the day of our visit to the Colobus Monkey Trust we chatted with Kelly and most of the center staff. We learned that during the 20 years of the center’s existence only one orphaned Colobus monkey has been successfully hand raised. Unlike Vervet babies who do well with their human ‘mommies’ (at least at Bambelela.) This challenge has required that the staff here become expert at returning Colobus monkeys to their wild troop as quickly as possible. Kelly assures us that this quick rehab and release has been quite successful over the years.
That’s why we don’t see the ‘normal’ large enclosures for the various stages of rehabilitation. There are really only smaller enclosures used for quarantine, evaluation and bonding. These house well cared for and beautiful Colobus (and a few rescued Vervets and Sykes.)
Seeing an almost empty center is good and bad.
Good, because Colobus are being effectively kept alive and safe in nature. The team here works hard at this, going as far as installing quasi rope ladders across the busy highway for safe passage, which the monkeys actually use.
During our visit we see a mother and her two week old snow white baby in the trees. New born Colobus Monkeys are born white. Also, a motley troop of wild Vervets and Sykes find our Land Rover fascinating to explore.
Bad, because to this point finding just the right ‘formula’ to keep any injured or orphaned Colobus youngsters alive has been elusive. Apparently, unlike Vervets, Colobus monkeys have more sensitive stomachs and psyches.
Kelly walks us around. At the same time a small group of tourists arrive for an Eco Trail tour. To help support the center daily walks bring in tourists and local school groups. These educational walks are both engaging and inspirational as visitors leave with a love and new respect for this beautiful primate.
Our hat off to the Colobus Conservation Trust, and all those we met who work there. And, for 20 dedicated years of preserving and protecting the Colobus Monkey in Diani, Kenya.