Monday, 19 May 2014

An introduction to colobus troop 1

My work in Kenya involves me researching three wild troops of the Angolan black and white colobus monkey, to learn more about this nationally threatened sub-species we have in Diani.

I want to introduce them to you and today I give you colobus troop 1 (CT1):

This troop has been studied for around three years now and is usually found right around the Colobus Conservation site. They are extremely used to humans and that means I can get rather close. They also come to ground a lot more often than other troops, which is fun to watch and on occasions they have run straight past me.


Hugo is the current alpha male of the troop who cannot be missed due to his extremely puffy head of hair, and the large scar running from his mouth on the right hand side of his face. He is a fairly calm leader who has to always be on the lookout for intruders and threats to the troop. It doesn’t help that another large male (Matata) has been on the fringe of the troop for a few months now and likes to cause trouble. Fear not as Hugo is on hand though to chase Matata away he comes to close to the infant of the troop.


One of two adult females of the troop and often can be seen leading them to new feeding spots for the day. She has two sons by the names Ewok and Elwood, the former is closing in on two, but Elwood is only a few months old and both require constant attention. Lately Elewa has been spending a lot of time with Matata and largely ignoring Elwood. Perhaps she is trying to hedge her bets in case Matata overthrows Hugo as alpha male, who knows? One thing we do know is that someone has to take on the responsibility of looking after Elwood; and that someone is Dogo.


Dogo is the other adult female of the troop and unlike Elewa is a strong mother who stands for no nonsense. As well as now taking care of the infant Elwood she also has two daughters herself, Duara and Dolly; and the latter (being only 1) still suckles and wants to snuggle up. Dogo certainly has her hands full, but she gets through as both her daughters are becoming more independent and lend a hand when they can.


His name arose due to having a small scar running down from his mouth on the left side of his face. He got this scar before Hugo got his and that is why Scarface got the name. A much smaller male than Hugo, Scarface spends his time socialising and playing with the younger members of the troop. He, like Hugo, has a bouffant hair style that is easy to recognise, or just look for the adult playing and acting like a kid. Currently he has joined colobus troop 2 (CT2), perhaps to try and take it over. He sits on the fringe and gets chased away by the alpha male and one female when he wonders too close; but he usually returns within 10-15 minutes. I am monitoring his progress and will bring you updates as and when events materialise.


The prodicle son returns! Chip (a sub-adult male) went missing back in early February and we feared the worst, but he appeared about a month ago and is now back with his natal troop. In colobus society the males do go off to form new (or take over existing) groups, and this is what we suspect has happened, only it wasn’t successful so he has returned; for now. Like Scarface, Chip enjoys playing with the younger troop members and will often instigate play by tugging on the hair on the top of Duara’s, Ewok’s, Kifungo’s or Dolly’s head. Will Chip stay a while or leave soon, stay tuned to find out.


A three year old female, she is well on her way to becoming a full adult, but still has a lot of learning to do. Duara is easy to spot as she constantly sucks on her finger (colobus do not have thumbs), a trait she picked up from Betsy (link here). Duara is always up for playing, but can also help her mother, Dogo, out with Elwood when she needs a break. She seems to also be spending more time near Matata, but not nearly as much as Elewa.


The son of Kinky Tail (missing), this little (2 year old) male loves getting up to trouble. Always wanting to play, I have seen him chase Hornbills (several times his size) and even ducks; because sometimes a colobus just won’t do. He is never too far away from Ewok and they love to sneak off together and stuff their faces full of Flamboyant and Bourganvillia flower. Kifungo also loves to be near Elwood and see what he is up to and make sure he is safe. Unfortunately Kifungo was involved in a road traffic accident earlier this year, but was patched up by Colobus Conservation and sent on his way within a day; he does walk slightly differently now. What future awaits this cheeky little chap?


Only a few months younger than Kifungo, Ewok has a smaller face and a flatter top of head, like a freshly mowed lawn. He is becoming my favourite member of the troop (sshh don’t tell the others) and not just because of the obvious Star Wars connection. Ewok, like Kifungo, loves to play and can often be heard rolling about in the leaves high in the canopy. He is a soft natured soul and can be easily spooked, sometimes by other colobus monkeys suddenly jumping nearby. Will he grow up to be strong like Hugo?


The youngest female of the group (just over 1) and definitely the fluffiest, Dolly often looks like she has just come out of the tumble dryer. Easily recognisable with her large, fluffy white hair on the sides of her face; often accompanied by a pollen coloured beard and face. She likes to be close to Dogo (mother) and is even still suckling, which is strange for her age. When everyone is snoozing she desperately tries to get very close to Dogo and cries will follow if she does not get her way; or another try with Elewa. Dolly even tries to help out with carrying Elwood, but being half her size it is quite a scary spectacle to watch.


Born January 2014, little Elwood is growing up fast and now showing his full black  and white colobus colours; colobus babies are born white. He requires constant attention with feeding and being carried, but the little guy is becoming more and more adventurous. He can be seen up to 3 meters away from his carer, jumping around and exploring. This has lead to him falling to the forest floor no less than 3 times (one close to my head), but he just springs back up and cries for help; which he soon gets. Elwood is now starting to try the leaves around him as he progresses from milk to solids. A big future awaits Elwood, we will keep you posted.


Finally we come to troublesome Matata who is sitting on the fringe of the group perhaps waiting for the right moment to try and take it over from Hugo. You can read about him here when I wrote about giving him a name.

Ewok & Kifungo playing

Colobus troop 1 resting on a rooftop

You have now been introduced to colobus troop 1; look out for more information about them on my facebook page listed below. I will write about the other two groups I follow in the near future.

You can see all my photos of my time in Kenya on my Flickr page -
On my Facebook page -


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