article / 14 November 2023

Citizen Science as a Tool to Enhance Biodiversity Conservation in the Tana River Primate National Reserve (TRPNR)

Leading the International Primates Day Awareness Celebrations in the TRPNR, Kenya's center for primate conservation and home to five of the nine primate species and three of the eleven primate subspecies on the Kenyan Coast.

WiCT my BIG WIN in a small WAY

I certainly never saw it coming, neither did I probably realized it, until the last day of our second and last physical meet up in November 2022 at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, that is when it occurred to me that the organizers of this amazing program were indeed on a mission to empower women and as a matter of fact take them to the next level of their careers. The virtual and in house trainings, on screen presentations, practical lessons, group discussions, interviews, and lastly the memorable evening round meetings, card games and photo shoots will always linger in my mind. But one thing that I will forever be grateful for is the pitch session. This was definitely the game changer!! For me. Thanks to all the amazing women led by Dr. Meredith, for taking us through pitching and making sure it stuck. By mid-day of 21st November 2023 every woman in the room had pitched….what an experience!  I never knew I was surrounded by think tanks until everyone pitched, they were all brilliant ideas in their own perspective, and even now as I am writing this, there are some ideas that I would like to adopt for my own community's mentoring project.

My Project

My WiCT project idea revolves around the use of citizen science as a tool to enhance biodiversity conservation in the Tana River Primate National Reserve (TRPNR) and its environs. Here I want to engage local communities by building their capacity through trainings and awareness creation, buying-in their full participation in conservation, ensuring a future local community that is informed and environmentally responsible to take charge of their own environment for their current needs and future generations. I intend to achieve this by setting up a monthly monitoring program that would collect information on species and ecosystems from a biological and ecological standpoint, identify any changes, and, where necessary, enact mitigation measures with the assistance of the local populace.

Progress and Impact

The arm seed grant through the WiCT program came as a surprise, however, handy in realizing my conservation goals. Even though I am currently unable to carry out the anticipated project, the grant allowed me to make significant advancements in conservation, especially by supporting pre-project efforts like raising awareness. Every year, the first of September is a significant date on the calendar of primatologists, me included. Since its inception in 2005, the International Primates Day has been observed as a day to raise awareness of the need to protect primates and their habitats. After hosting the 2022 event in Nairobi, I had the instinct that it would benefit the Tana River locals to host this year's celebration in the TRPNR, the country's center for primate conservation. The TRPNR is home to five of the nine primate species and three of the eleven primate subspecies on the Kenyan coast. More so, TRPNR is home to the two endemic and critically endangered primates globally; the Tana River Red Colobus and the Crested Mangabey. Fortunately, many conservation stakeholders agreed with the concept, so everything fell into place and celebration preparations in the TRPNR kicked into high gear.

As the Wildlife Research and Training Institute representative, I took lead in the planning with the help of the Kenya institute of Primate Research, and Nature Kenya, supported by Kenya Wildlife Service and the Northern Rangelands Trust among other stakeholders and consequently held the event at Mchelelo Research Camp, the only researchers camp at the heart of the TRPNR and coincidentally my historical home in my conservation journey. As a pre-event campaign a webinar talk themed Human non-human primate conflict mitigation Approaches, was held on the 31st of August graced by non-other than Dr. Corinna Most, a renowned primatologist and the lead of Uaso Ngiro Baboon Project. On the material day activities ranged from a public procession to conservation public talks, traditional dances and songs from both the communities and schools in praise of the conservation efforts in place. Similarly and of importance a habitat restoration program was launched towards hitting a 20,000 planted trees target within the season to mark the many other activities in marking yet another important day in our world, The World Monkey Day slated for the 14th of December 2023. The arm seed grant helped with my transportation to and from the event, as well as my daily sustenance stipend for the two days I was there. I owe a deep and unending debt of gratitude to the WiCT program for setting the pace in my world, building my confidence from scratch to the action packed woman that I am today.

Hats off to the creators, executors and promoters of WiCT. Let WiCT be felt by every woman in nature conservation. 

I am Rose Abae, A Woman in Conservation Technology and in Nature Networking

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