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Aerial bridges spring life into rare colobus monkey

By | March 18th 2010

BY Philip Mwakio

A troop of chattering colobus monkeys agilely jump from an indigenous tree to another in Diani Beach Forest until they come to the edge of a busy highway that cuts through the middle of the forest. Without hesitation they swing onto a cable, rubber and PVC bridge that straddles the highway and cross to the other side.

Before the Colobus Trust constructed the suspended monkey bridges at strategic points, the monkeys crossed the road on foot making them vulnerable to road accidents.

The colobus is the most arboreal of all African monkeys and rarely descends to the ground. It uses branches as trampolines, jumping up and down on them to get liftoff for leaps of up to 50 feet.

But the bridge initiative is not the only effort by the trust to protect monkeys. On the white pristine sandy beaches of Diani lies a unique, secluded primate rescue centre. The Colobus Trust Primate Rescue and Conservation camp is a refuge for sick and endangered monkeys.

Here, a team of volunteers have teamed up with the community to conserve four diurnal primates including the Angolan black and white, yellow baboon vervet, the skyes monkeys and two nocturnal primates.

Acting assistant manager Robert Pearce says the trust was set up in 1997 after a sudden decline in the numbers of the colobus monkey. "Accidents caused by speeding vehicles decimated their numbers," he says.

This followed an increase of vehicular traffic along the Diani beach southern road that hugs a patch of a natural forest that is home to the monkeys.

Another threat is deforestation. "Developers have cleared much of the forest," he says.

An un-insulated electric power line at the edge of the forest has led to electrocution of the primates. Conservationists say bush meat hunters are yet another major threat.

The colobus monkey that once roamed the coastal forests from Somalia to Mozambique is now confined to the Kenyan South Coast.

According to a survey by the trust there are only 300 monkeys left. "Nearly 75 per cent of the coastal forest has been destroyed," says Pearce.

The trust chair hotelier Raymond Matiba says erection of speed bumps has also improved safety

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