April 8, 2017

This April 8, 2017 Pre-translocation ecological assessment of Mount Kenya Guereza and the habitats of Soysambu Conservancy. resulted in an accelerated human-guereza conflict as the groups crop raid to supplement the meager wild food.

To save this population, 142 individuals were successfully translocated to Karura forest in 2016 and over 200 individuals still remain in the fragmented private riverine habitats of Kipipiri. Urgent translocation efforts are therefore, required to safe these groups from being exterminated in the near future. Such an effort however, requires identification of a suitable habitat with enough food, cover, security and away from human habitation and especially the agricultural community to minimize human-colobus conflicts in the sink habitat.

Colobus gueurza - These monkeys of the old forests rarely come to ground. They are speecialized leaf-eaters. Picture cortesy: Kat Combes
Colobus guereza – These monkeys of the old forests rarely come to ground. They are specialized leaf-eaters. Picture courtesy: Kat Combes

Soysambu Conservancy offers most of the ecological requirements of the guereza with its diverse habitat types and currently supporting a small population of guerezas. Translocation of the vulnerable guereza population at Kipipiri to Soysambu conservancy will not only safe the population from the dangers of constant conflict with humans but will boost the genetic diversity of the existing population. The project will also offer an opportunity to solve human wildlife conflict in the source habitat and boost agricultural productivity in the area. Proper planning of such a project, however, requires an understanding of population dynamics of the current guereza population in terms of numbers, composition, structure and growth trends. Information on the available space for more individuals will be required in addition to food availability and the current food selection by the existing guereza population.

In the pre-translocation planning, we therefore, endeavor to conduct a population survey of the Soysambu guereza population to understand their numbers, and composition; undertake a rapid survey of the group’s dietary composition and survey the various forest micro-habitats to determine food availability and the number of groups and/or individuals Soysambu conservancy can hold.

This information will be shared with the National Primate Task Force, the Kenya Wildlife Service and the institute of Primate Research in seeking for a translocation approval and enable permit application. To achieve this we seek for pre-translocation funding to facilitate the attainment of the stated objectives.Translocation which is the deliberate movement of wild animals from one natural habitat to another is increasingly being used for species conservation and management purposes (Baker, 2002). The exercise has been elevated to an important conservation technique by the increasing human impacts on wildlife habitats coupled with an accelerated global climate change.

Although a common technique in the conservation and management of most species, translocation of non-human primates is rare (Strum, 1986). The decline in wild primate populations across the globe has necessitated an active species conservation and management if the long term survival of populations is to be achieved. Although rarely used, technique is proving to have a potential future in the management of vulnerable primate populations (Strum, 1986).

Translocation has successfully been used in the management of vulnerable populations and especially those in constant conflict with humans. These include the case of Zanzibar red colobus which was successfully translocated for purposes of conservation (Butynski and De Jong, 2011). In Kenya, the first attempts to translocate primates was done with a group of baboons from Kikopey in Gilgil moved to Laikipia in 1984 as a result of human-baboon conflict as agriculture was expanding in Gilgil (Strum, 2005).

In 1999, a small population of 14 Mount Kenya guerezas were translocated to Soysambu Conservancy from the private farms in Kipipiri as a result of accelerated pouching and human wildlife conflict (King, 1999). After relocating the small guereza population to Soysambu, more vulnerable groups were left in Kipipiri and as the human population was expanding, the demand for agriculture increased in equal proportion leading to the clearance of riverine habitats, the only guereza habitat.

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