I have just returned from an expedition of the Wamba Valley on Mt Uarges the highest peak of Mathews ranges. This is one of several expeditions we undertake to monitor population of de Brazza’s monkey and the Endangered Mt Uarges guereza in the extensive Mathews ranges.
Accompanied by an experienced forest guide, we started our mission from Wamba on the foot of Mt Uarges climbing the steep mountain slowly in search of the Lkoroi (Mt Uarges guereza). We were also searching for the De Brazza’s monkey as we continue with our effort to map this newly discovered population. More new groups have been recorded after the 2007 pioneering survey and we are still scouting for more.
Five hours after we started our climb, we encountered the first group of Mt Uarges guereza at Sere Rongai from a distance. We counted three from the fleeing group, probably an indication that this population is frightened by human presence. Their flight distance was unusually long compared to other co-specifics living in safer habitats. This may be a good indicator of poaching in this habitat, the heartland of this Endangered sub-species.
At Lolng’eriyio near the peak of the mountain, we encountered another troop which fled on noticing our presence. This time we managed to count five adults. However, the next morning we were lucky to encounter this troop, this time counting twenty of them!
After the two days of extensive survey in the Wamba Valley, we didn’t see any De Brazza’s monkey. Has anyone seen De Brazza’s on Wamba Valley? Please contact us and we will go to the ground to verify.
In the meantime, I am planning my next expedition in other parts of the Mathews ranges. Check Primates Guardian Diary on this blog for more exciting news from the forest and awareness campaigns in the villages.
In early May, 2010 I headed to Samburu to lead some primates’ conservation activities. With the help of team from Samburu, we carried out an intensive awareness campaign in Wamba by conducting an elder’s workshop representing the entire district and awareness outreach in two secondary Schools. The workshop was facilitated by two highly qualified natural resources managers from Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy. Our clarion call ‘Mikiranyie Nkoroin’ is an appeal to the ‘Moran’s’ to stop killing the Endangered Mt Uarges guereza for its skin. Below are some photos from these events.
Tom, one of the Facilitators explaining the distribution of de Brazza's monkey in Mathews range
I spent the Easter Break holding meetings with my team on the ground to plan for an upcoming elders’ workshop in Wamba. This workshop will be followed by key stakeholders’ workshop in Marallal. The aim of the elders’ workshop is to interpret to them findings of my 3 years research in the area. This is part of my wider plan to ensure that I communicate and explain all my conservation research findings to the local people as this is where the findings will make a big difference. This is unlike many scientists whose papers gather dust in shelves of libraries as they never go back to their study sites to communicate their findings to the local stakeholders.
In Samburu community, elders are highly respected and act as the custodians of the community’s culture. This workshop will communicate to them in simplified terms and the local Samburu dialect, the ecological and socio-economic implications of the poaching of the sub-species so that they can make conscious decision on the way forward on both the cultural use and the conservation of the primate, which is found nowhere else outside the Samburu, even in Zoos!!
On my way to Wamba, I was amazed by the huge difference the on the vegetation when comparing it to the same time last year at the height of the drought. The livestock, which were dying for lack of food and water are now healthy and seems to have stored extra fats in anticipation of another drought!
However, to a primatologist who has worked in the Mathews range since 2006, I was quick to make the connection. Mathews range is a dry season feeding ground for all the livestock in the lower areas. Given that there is no grass in the forest, the livestock is fed on the evergreen tree branches on river valleys greatly degrading the primate’s habitat. In open areas, the herders burn the grass to encourage regeneration of lush green grass. These fires get out of control and end up burning hundreds of acres of the forest thereby destroying the primates’ habitat. Therefore the pounding rains, though causing damages in some quarters is a blessing to the primates and they will be no human beings and livestock in the forest any time soon!
Some images from Samburu
A Primate Guardian camping at Mt Uarges recently
Iregi Mwenja is the Project Leader of the Samburu Primates Research and Conservation Project and Associate Research Scientist of the Institute of Primate Research
The Samburu Primates research and Conservation Project was recently awarded a $19,000 Grant by the Rufford Small Grant Foundation. The RSG Booster Grant is meant for awareness rising activities in Samburu and does not offset administrative costs or pay salaries. The project targets rare and endangered primates found in remote areas which have not been previously addressed.
This awareness phase of the project was preceded by 3 years of groundbreaking field assessments and monitoring, both of which were supported by RSG. We seek to interpret these findings to the local people, raise awareness among the key stakeholders and local communities to promote initiation of community based conservation actions and mainstream primate’s conservation in the ongoing environmental conservation activities in the Samburu. Ultimately the goal is to bring about behavior change to reduce poaching of the Endangered Mt Uarges guereza and enhance protection of the newly discovered de Brazza’s monkey population.
On behalf of the Project team, I want to thank RSG Foundation for this generous support (the third in three years!).
Starting this Christmas, check this blog for regular updates as the team on the ground embarks on an exciting campaign to save the rare and endangered primates of Samburu.