Monday, 10 March 2014

Update from a primatologist in Kenya - I have arrived!

It's not every day you get chased by a Turkey while trying to look high up in a tree to identify a monkey with the baking hot African sun beaming down on you; or maybe it is?

Catch up:

For those of you that don't know I am now living in Diani Beach, Kenya working as a Field Researcher for Colobus Conservation. This is to gain experience working with wild primates and what the life of a researcher is like. I am here for six months and on my return will begin an MSc in Primate Conservation at Oxford-Brookes University.

Diani Beach (DB):

DB is a beautiful part of Kenya, situated on the South-East coast that boasts golden sands, turquoise water (which is very warm) and sunshine, sunshine, sunshine. Between all the 5 star hotels and stunning beach bars with chairs literally in the sea is partly fragmented coastal forest. This habitat is home to an amazing array of wildlife and of course primates. The star of the show is the Angolan black and white colobus monkey (colobus) and that is why Colobus Conservation is here.

Colobus Conservation (CC):

In one sentence CC are conserving the colobus monkey on the Kenyan coast.
Established in 1997 the organisation works in partnership with local communities to promote the conservation of the colobus, along with other local primates, and the unique coastal forest habitat on which they depend. Working on simple measures such as tree planting and building Colobridges (See picture below) are ensuring the preservation of the forests and the colobus. To learn more about CC click here.

What am I actually doing?

So my role as a field researcher means I go out into the surrounding areas to watch and record the behaviour and interactions of the different colobus monkey groups. I have to be able to identify the different individuals of the group and then spend time watching each one recording what they are doing. I am also recording how they interact with the other primates and predators in the area as well as where they sleep.

Not much is known about this species of colobus monkey and so continuous research is being undertaken to find out more. This information can then be used to better protect not only the Colobus monkey but the habitat they live in.

First few days in Kenya:

After travelling for 24 hours, with very little sleep I arrived at CC and was shown to where I would be living for the next six months. First thing I noticed is that there are monkeys everywhere, in the trees, on the roof and on the floor. As CC is a safe haven for them they have become very relaxed around humans here and you can get quite close to them.

I met some of the other volunteers and then unpacked and tried to relax. Being the hottest part of the year the temperature is around 33 degrees and the humidity is high; relaxing was not easy. What is nice though is having a chef making our lunch and dinner everyday bar Sunday, and most of the food is Vegan with some meat or fish done separately on occasion. This makes eating at CC very easy for me and most of the food is local African dishes which are lovely. Ugali is a type of mashed potato made from corn flour and water and chapattis is like a very thin pancake. The rest is mainly lots of bean, lentils and vegetables with the odd pizza or burger and chips thrown in.

We are on the beach side and have our own beach access, so within one minute I can be bathing on the glorious beach or swimming in the warm water. Not bad when the heat is just too much.

My work up until now has been mainly training on how to follow and record the colobus monkeys behaviour. Very soon I will be starting my actual study and I will talk about that in future posts.

For now that is it, please ask me any questions you may have and enjoy the pictures below.

You can find all my pictures on Flickr here – 

Or on my Facebook page here –

Me on the beautiful Diani Beach

The beach road near Colobus Conservation

The Angolan Black & White Colobus monkey

Neighbours turkey that likes to attack me. 

A Colobridge to ensure monkeys can cross the road safely
As always the pictures are owned by the author and under their copyright. They are uploaded at a lower quality as my internet in Kenya is slow.


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