Endangered Colobos Monkey Still Facing Extinction

From Nairobi, Kenya to Accra, Ghana concerned citizens are polarized to save the Colobos Monkey.
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April 11, 2012 - PRLog -- The findings of a recently concluded survey show that the Endangered Colobus guereza ssp. percivali, one of the eight subspecies of the colobus guereza is facing imminent threat of extinction due to poaching for its skin in Samburu, northern Kenya. The report titled; “The distribution of the Endangered Mt Uarges guereza, in Samburu, northern Kenya” recommends urgent actions to save the endemic subspecies from further decline. The study was the first ever on-the-ground survey of this rare primate.

The subspecies, commonly referred to as Mt Uarges guereza (or Uarguess guereza) is named after Mt Uarges, one of the mountain ranges that make up the Mathews range where the subspecies was first reported. It is only found in three forests of Samburu, within a small geographic range of less than 150 sq km that extends from Kirisia Hills to Mathews range and Ndoto forests.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species list subspecies C. g. ssp percivali as Endangered on account of this restricted distribution and the risk if faces from hunting for its skins by the local community. However, the entire species Colobus guereza is listed as Least Concern in IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as this widespread species is not thought to be declining fast enough to place it in a higher category of threat.

According to the findings of this survey that was led by Iregi Mwenja in Mt Nyiro forest, Ndoto forest, Kirisia Hills and Mathews range forest, the subspecies has for a long time been poached for its skin by the local community who use it during traditional ceremonies like circumcision. The skin is worn by ‘Morans’ (young men) who tie two pieces round the leg above the ankle to cover the feet. The skins was also used for other traditional ceremonies most of which have now been discarded.

The scariest finding was the ‘extinction’ of the Mt Nyiro population last seen in the 1950s. Information we gathered coupled with our on-the-ground assessment early in the study indicate that the ‘Lkoroi’ as it is locally known, once thrived on the western side of Mt Nyiro i.e. Tum and R Ewaso Rongai at Lorian more than five decades ago. Our ground survey teams that surveyed Ewaso Rongai, Tum and across from South Horr to Kosikosi and Kurante via Lonjolin did not find any guereza colobus in these areas.

In Kirisia Hills from the Baawa to Ol Piroi, Poro to Ang’ata Nanyuki our survey teams never saw the colobus though, the key people interviewed admitted to having seen the subspecies in the forest in the last decade and blamed the dramatic decline of the subspecies population in this habitat on increased poaching caused by acquisition automatic weapons which made hunting more successful. The arrival of these semi automatic weapons made hunting the agile arboreal monkey extremely easy compared to the traditional snare hunting methods which could only capture a few monkeys over a long duration.

During our survey in Ndoto forest, two groups were recorded in the densely forested areas of southeastern part of Ndoto Forest at upper reaches of Sererit valley at Lolionto and matasia.

In Mathews range we found the Mt Uarges guereza along Wamba river valley on Mt Uarges as well as on the upper reaches of River Ng’eng, Ntukuda and Nkii valley. On the eastern side of Mathews, Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy Rangers at Sarara Camp who confirmed there was more group on this eastern side of Mt Uarges. They also confirmed presence of more groups at Tipito, the peak of the mountain range adjacent to Mt. Uarges.

The report warns that urgent action has to be taken to halt the killings of the few remaining member of this subspecies before we lose the last stable population in Mathews range forest reserve. This can be done through aggressive awareness rising coupled with improved law enforcement on the short term to stop further declines in the remaining population of this Endangered primate.

The guereza colobus is a large black monkey with a white mantle and a tail tuft. The body is mostly black, with the white mantle extending from the shoulder to the hip, connecting around the lower torso. The tail has a white tuft at its end which is variable in its extent along the length of the tail. Subspecies are distinguished from one another by color variations in these features. The face is surrounded by white hair, with bushy cheek hairs. There is a white stripe on the thigh. In rare instances, almost entirely white individuals are reported from the west side of Mt. Kenya, with the color not being due to albinism.

Iregi Mwenja is an Associate Research Scientist with the Institute of Primate Research and has been studying rare primates in Samburu for the last three year. iregim[at]yahoo.com   or www.primatesresearch.org also
Sunkwa International Incorporated is a non profit organization marketing a T- shirt (see Photo) the sales of which will help the Colobos Monkey in The Boabeng-Fiem Monkey Sanctuary in GhanaAn easy day trip 165km north of Kumasi via the northbound road for Techiman, then east to the Nkoranza District in the Brong-Ahafo region on the Techimna-Tamale Rd. The sanctuary is well posted once you are in the Nkoranza District - if you happen to miss them, just stop and ask somone and they will direct you as it is well known. The signs direct you to the Visitor Centre where you can get information, a guide and pay your fees. At the time of this article it cost eight Ghana ceidis each for foreign visitors (April 2012) which covered the guide, a 1-hour tour, and a visit to the "souvenir shop" afterwards. Ghanaian passport holders can get a discount. There were toilets and accomodation available there as well. Once you have paid your fees, the guide will take you to the village of Boabeng and lead you on one of the many trails through the forest, while explaining about the local folklore, some of the flora and introduce you to the monkeys.To the villages of Boabeng and Fiema, the monkeys are considered the sacred  descendents of their traditional village deities Daworo and Abujo, so they have done what they can to protect them and honour them, as they believe their own protection and prosperity depends on it. In fact they have done so well, that six other communities have sought to join the community-based conservation project: Akrudwa1; Akrudwa2; Busunya; Konkrompe; Senya and Yefri.

All in all, this is a wonderful area to visit if you are in Ghana, and just as worth while as a trip to Elmina Castle. Other attractions in the area include: Kintampo and Fuller falls, the village of Nsuta (famous for the traditional production of Kyenkyen woven fabric from pounded bark of Antiaris Africana); Kente cloth and potters in Boama; The Hani Archaeological Site; Digya National Park; The Tano Boase Sacred Grove; Kwaku Fri's Shrine; and Lake Volta. Many of the Artists and Artisans in the area are featured in The Annual Artist and Artisan Free Trade Catalog published by Sunkwa International Inc. To pre order the catalog which comes out Holiday Season 2012  contact Sunkwa International Incorporated's Facebook page at Facebook./sunkwainc or phone 1(404) 323-5904 in USA.

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Sunkwa International Inc of Atlanta’s is a non- profit fair trade organization.
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