Wildlife including the vulnerable colobus monkey in Diani Forest in Kenya have been increasingly threatened by land development and urbanisation. But efforts to engage local communities to conserve and regenerate indigenous forest are helping restore the animal’s natural habitat and migratory corridor. 

Diani, Kenya is a unique suburban town with six species of primates found within a beautiful coastal forest strip listed by Conservation International as one of the top Biodiversity Hotspots in the world. Unfortunately, 75% of this important forest has been lost as a result of the impact of human-induced threats such as logging, clearance of forest land for arable farming, and development of infrastructures over the past 25 years. 

This has greatly interfered with the species movement within the ecosystems and exposed them to a new set of predators and dangers. The colobus monkeys have become the primary species involved in dog attacks while on the ground and primate vehicle collisions while crossing the busy Diani Beach road, and many have suffered horrific deaths through electrocutions by exposed power lines. Tree canopy cover and connectivity are crucial for the survival of the colobus monkey that is dependent on dense tree canopies for both movement and food. Colobus monkeys are arboreal in nature, hence are not used to being on the ground. It is important that Diani Forest and the Colobus migratory corridor are restored to keep them off the ground.

To help address the huge amount of deforestation in the area, Colobus Conservation works with communities to conserve and regenerate indigenous forest; protecting the remnant patches in south eastern Kenya for their unique endemism and for the colobus monkey’s habitats. The Indigenous Tree Seller Training Initiative (ITSTI), which was established to raise awareness amongst local businesses, roadside tree sellers, and residents on the importance of indigenous forests for people and wildlife, to reduce the number of exotic and invasive species being planted, and to increase the number of indigenous plant species available within Diani. This project facilitates forest regeneration and community development by providing the whole community with easy access to a comprehensive selection of suitable and sustainable indigenous saplings for future planting, and sharing knowledge on why reforestation efforts are so important. In addition, local communities and schools take part in a tree planting day at the end of the workshop. This project creates a viable market for each participant to sell indigenous trees whilst addressing the need to increase the demand for indigenous species over exotics, thus helping maintain biodiversity via indigenous forest conservation. 

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Colobus Migratory Corridor, colobus conservationAn onsite education workshop in tree nursery. Photo courtesy of Colobus Conservation. 

Colobus Conservation has a well-stocked tree nursery at the centre where the local community can come and purchase indigenous trees to plant on their properties, and help restore the natural habitat. To support the community in selecting the right trees for the land in which they plan to plant, the Kenya-based non-profit has a detailed indigenous tree species catalogue and experienced forestry staff onsite to answer any questions and provide advice. 

A special project dubbed ‘trees4kids’, was also recently introduced where scholars receive trees – free of charge – to plant back in their schools and homes and are responsible for nurturing the trees during their time in school. At the initial phase of the project, each school was given five trees, but resources  gradually increased to a ratio of one tree: five school kids. Now, the target is to have every child receive a plant of their own and care for it. With a target of 1,500 kids annually, Colobus Conservation would need 1,500 tree seedlings.

You can help take action to save the environment and support the planting of a tree on your behalf to help restore Diani’s habitat and animal migratory corridor in Kenya.