The Mt Uarges guereza, Colobus guereza ssp. percivali is one of the eight subspecies of the Colobus guereza species. It is endemic to the forests of Samburu and is the only one of the eight listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List.
According to the findings of a survey I headed in Mt Nyiro forest, Ndoto forest, Kirisia Hills and Mathews range forests (between April 2007 and December 2008), the subspecies has been heavily poached for its skin by the local community who wear it during traditional ceremonies like circumcision. The skin is worn by ‘Morans’ on the lower part of the shin and round the heads during such ceremonies.
A man demonstrating how the skin is worn
Information we gathered over this period indicate that the ‘Lkoroi’ as it is locally known, once thrived on the eastern side of Mt Nyiro– Tum and Ewaso Rangai (lorian). Interviews with old men in Mt Nyiro and a retired colonial District Forest Officer who served in the area 50 years ago revealed that it is possible that there were guereza colobus in the Mt Nyiro forest up to the 1950s. All of them attributed the disappearance to poaching for the skin and habitat degradation due to encroachment during drought and periods of tribal conflict between the Samburu and the Turkana. The Turkana who use the skin as a head gear are said to have obtained it from Mt Nyiro as well.
In Kirisia Hills from the outskirts of Maralal to Baawa, Poro to Ang’ata Nanyuki, most of the adults 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 the proliferation of small arms which spiraled in the 1980s. Thea arrival of these semi automatic weapons made hunting the agile arboreal monkey extremely easy as oppossed to the traditional snare hunting methods. At Ol Dionyo Naju, we got reliable reports that the last remaining colobus in the area was killed in 2006 ostensibly for the skin. My fear is that Kirisia hills will soon go the Mt Nyiro way as it was clear that the monkey have been wiped out in most of its range within the Leroghi forest reserve.
Though the skin is passed over from father to son over generations, interviews with Morans around Maralal indicated that the skins was scarce and they were now turning to Mathews range forest where the subspecies is readily available for fresh supplies. Here the monkey is found in hundreds particularly on the central and southern parts of the forest reserve. The monkey is an easy target as it is not accustomed to poaching like in Kirisia Hills where they have been known to actively avoid close human contact.
It is imperative that action 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 halt further declines in the population of this Endangered primate.
Photo of the rare Mt Uarges guereza taken along river Wamba on Mt Uarges. Photo: Mwenja
Colobus guereza information
The species Colobus guereza is widespread across Africa and ranges from the Donga River region of Nigeria and the Yabassi District of Cameroon, eastwards across the Oubangui River from the Central African Republic to the northern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and then discontinuously eastwards to southern Sudan, Uganda, the Kenyan and Ethiopian highlands, and Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru and the Kahé District of Tanzania.
The eight sub-species are;
1. Colobus guereza ssp. caudatus
2. Colobus guereza ssp. dodingae
3. Colobus guereza ssp. gallarum
4. Colobus guereza ssp. guereza
5. Colobus guereza ssp. kikuyuensis
6. Colobus guereza ssp. matschiei
7. Colobus guereza ssp. occidentalis
8. Colobus guereza ssp. percivali
For more details on the survey, please contact me on the iregim[at]yahoo.com