Agency steps up bid to save rare monkeys, rhino from extinction

Rift Valley
By Antony Gitonga | Feb 19, 2024
Red colobus monkey in the trees of Zanzibar rain forest. [iStockphoto]

Two of the most popular monkey species in the country are facing extinction due to the rise in human activities and loss of habitat.

According to data released in January 2024, the numbers of Tana River Red colobus and the Tana River mangabey which are found in the Tana River Basin in the Coast has declined by over 50 per cent.

Data released by Kenya Wildlife Research and Training Institute (WRTI), shows the animals face the imminent risk of extinction as a result of unprecedented degradation, land fragmentation and loss of their habitat.

The report notes that the species population has declined by over 50 per cent since 1980 and the effective reproducing population is less than 1,000 individuals.

The situation has been worsened by human activity with the animals losing 70 per cent of their primary habitat as per the report.

“Local community conservation politics and negative attitudes towards conservation have impeded conservation efforts for close to three decades,” says the report.

The report which also has input from the Kenya Institute of Primate of Research (KIPRE), KWS and Nature Kenya warns that the animals face the imminent risk of extinction.

“Since the start of active conservation and protection of the species in early 1980, little progress has been made in their population recovery and the numbers have continued to decline,” reveals the report.

The report however notes that increased conservation awareness and outreach in the last decade targeting the local communities have yielded positive results.

“Local communities are now pro-conservation, which has resulted in the creation of local conservancies enhancing the protection and conservation of the two primates,” reads the report.

Currently, WRTI has joined a consortium of scientists and conservationists in saving the Northern White Rhino from extinction.

WRTI Director Patrick Omondi said they were undertaking cutting-edge research to save the remaining two female rhinos in Olpejeta Conservancy.

Dr Omondi revealed that they were working closely with Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research Berlin Germany, Zoo Dvur Kralove (ZooDK) and Laventea Lab of Italy.

“With only two female Northern White Rhinos remaining in the world, we have embarked on major research to save this species from extinction,” he said.

He noted that the institute was working on various research programmes which included mapping biodiversity hotspots and identification of threats to marine species.

Other studies include species population dynamics of the endangered Mountain Bongo and black Rhino through camera trapping and restoration of degraded areas in Aberdares

“The Research Institute has made huge steps including securing seed funding from the government to establish a comprehensive wildlife database,” he said.

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