Kenya is a primate range country enjoying homage to over 19 species of primates, with over 50% of these species threatened with extinction due to rapid loss of habitat, increased elimination from human interactions, and by extension to climate change among other causes. 9 out of these species occur in Tana River, among them the world top 25 most endangered primate the Tana River Red colobus (Piliocolobus rufomitratus) and the Tana River Mangabey (Cercocebus galeritus), among other species of conservation priority. The Red Colobus and the Mangadrill conservation action plans outlined a wide range of conservation priority actions as essential for the recovery of declining populations, among them is the active engagement and integration of local communities in primate conservation. Inspired by the 2023 International Day of Primates theme “Saving Wild Primates by promoting coexistence in shared spaces”. The Tana River Primate Reserve became the ideal venue for the 2023 celebrations as well as a platform to raise public awareness to the local people around. In partnership with other individuals and organizations we organized and celebrated the first ever in Tana River country the International Day of Primates on 1st September 2023. The arm grant provided for the much needed support for my participation in this event, supporting my transport costs to and from the venue and my daily upkeep for three days before, during and after the event as I was the initiator and coordinator of the event. As result;
- Approximately 200 people participated in the event,
- Launched a tree planting program to enrich and restore degraded primate habitats
- Initiated primate talks in the area including training on primate monitoring and habitat quality assessments
- Established a stakeholder network to collectively push the agenda of primate conservation forward
IPD Procession Tree planting by Bulichani Community group
My MSc journey taught me that conservation without technology is a mere conversation! Why? I missed a lot of valuable data and information with intrinsic value, and time as a resource, during and after my data collection escapade. And now armed with the skills and knowledge I would want to change the wheel. Additionally, during the IPD event and my interactions with the local community, I learnt that communities need to be actively engaged in conservation for any meaningful strides of success. With a technology approach in mind and the local community at my sight, my upcoming conservation project, partly funded by arm, 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. I intend to employ GIS technologies to map out forest patches and degraded areas within the patches for enrichment and restoration purposes, use mobile technology to collect data and provide modest scientific reports as well as camera traps for species surveillance in the forest patches. Through this project, I will in collaboration with the local community be conducting monthly monitoring programs for the period between January and December 2024, to collect information on species and ecosystems from a biological and ecological standpoint, identifying changes, and, where necessary, enact mitigation measures with the assistance of the local populace. My target as stipulated in the Red colobus and Mangadrill conservation action plans is to engage and integrate local communities into conservation by building their capacity in research data collection and raise awareness as a buy-in in understanding the nitty-grities of conservation as well as their full participation in matters 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 am looking forward to an innovative journey through this project and optimistic that collaborations and technological solutions will come my way in finding lasting solutions to the ever shrinking habitat and dwindling populations of the Tana River primates and other sympatric species.