A Tale of Diani’s Colobus Monkeys

Tucked away in the coastal forest, Colobus Conservation is an organization designed to promote the conservation, preservation and protection of primates, such as the nationally threatened Angolan Colobus monkey also known as Colobus Angolensis Palliatus, and its coastal forest habitat in South Kenya.

The Colobus Conservation was established in 1997 as a response to outcry from the locals about the high number of Colobus monkey deaths, human activity increased along Diani Beach.

The Organization, which was originally established to research and find the best solutions to protect and solve human and wildlife conflict has also found a popular soft spot for tourists that visit Diani.

It’s Sunday afternoon, I, The Fisayo from Nigeria, Samuel Getachew from Ethiopia, Alex Tackie from Ghana, Dr Wolfgang Thome from Uganda and Cynthia Kinyeru from Kenya as part of the Magical Kenya tourism expo media familiarization trips made our way into the conservation area.

The writer taking photos of the White Colobus monkeys

At first sight we all appreciated the greenery around.

The place has fresh air from the Indian Ocean, birds singing us welcoming songs and insects of course joining in the choruses.

Here, we meet Mary Mandela who was our guide of the day.

Mandela began by showing us the different primates that call Diani home; from the Sykes Monkeys, Vervet Monkeys, Angola black and White Colobus Monkeys, Yellow Baboons and many more.


“Colobus comes from a GreekWord Mutilated because unlike other primates Colobus monkeys do not have thumbs. They have beautiful black fur strongly contrasts with the long white mantle, whiskers, bushy tail and bearded around the face,” she described it.

Looking at Mandela describing the primates to us clearly showed us her love for what she does, which on the other hard made me want to know what she was doing before becoming a conservationist.

“Well, l was a teacher before and my pay was not enough to sustain my family but apart from that, l always loved animals and having the opportunity to work in conserving them is a great joy,” she said.

While we walked in the compound, we saw some colobus monkeys sleeping in the trees as high as 10 meters feet while others joyfully jumped from one branch to another, up and down, falling with outstretched arms and legs to grab the next branch. I don’t know if they were showing off because they saw us, the visitors. All l can say is l was enjoying it.

Conservation efforts

Mandela said that one of their key goals is to make sure they deliver a high quality primates rescue and rehabilitation service.

“Some of the actions we have taken are to put up sign posts in all places around Diani reading ‘Do not feed Monkeys’. We have also sensitized the residents and hotel or lodge owners to live harmoniously with the primates and how they should conduct themselves once they encounter them”.

She also added that many primates get electrocuted, which is the leading cause of death of monkeys in Diani.

“We have managed to insulate 12 kilometers of the power lines along Diani Beach Road but are yet to insulate a few more Kilometers which still continue to pause a threat to the monkeys”.

Mary showing us the skulls of the dead primates

When some monkeys are electrocuted and they don’t die, they are rescued, given medication and taken back to the forest once they are fully recovered using monkey carrier boxes.

“From January till July 2019, we have responded to approximately 225 welfare cases of which 9 bush baby, 20 yellow baboons, 42 colobus monkeys, 52 vervets and102 sykes which have already been rehabilitated and reintroduced into the wild,” she revealed.

They are also planting more trees to help solve the problem.

Mandela also said that people could donate money to look after the primates or donate to install power lines to prevent the primates’ mortality due to electrocutions.

“For 3 dollars, you can insulate 1 kilometer of power line”.

Why they leave the forest?

The degradation of Kenya’s coastal forest has made the primates struggle to survive.

Diani Forests are part of the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa Global Biodiversity Hotspot.

Because of Urbanization 90 percent of the vegetation within the hotspot has been lost.

A yellow Baboon with its young one crossing the Diani road

Most of the coral rag forest which are extremely rich in Biodiversity have slowly been lost in favour of tourist resorts and cottages.

Mandela at the end of our tour posed a question with a medium sized mirror in front of us and asked;

“Who is the biggest destroyer of nature? Look in the mirror and tell me, she insisted”

And I sheepishly said “me”. That must be the hardest short answer I have had to answer and it still haunts me up to date.

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