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Code Red, Red Colobus

100 years after its discovery, it becomes an endangered species

Red Colobus Monkey in Coral Rag Forest, Jozani, Zanzibar - Bee-Elle - African Wildlife Photography

In 1868, Sir John Kirk, the British Administrator in Zanzibar, stumbled across this beautiful reddish, leaf, fruit and flower-eating primate and had it named after himself. It's likely Sir John wouldn’t have thought that 100 years later, it would become gravely endangered. Their gravely endangered status

Classified as endangered by both IUCN and CITES, and with an estimated 1000-1200 left in the wild, the Kirk’s Red Colobus Monkey has been at a critical low for the last few decades due to commercial logging, charcoal production, agriculture, cutting trees down for firewood and building poles- the typical laundry list of things that lead to habitat loss.

The protected reserve: Jozani Chwaka National Park

The only protected area that they can safely exist in is a 50 square kilometre forest reserve at the Jozani Chwaka National Park in Zanzibar. En route to the beaches from the airport and the port, visitors stop by at the reserve to see these endangered primates, which has greatly helped to promote awareness and education of the species. At some point, however, large numbers of monkeys walking across the road were getting hit by speeding vehicles. Eventually, speed bumps were installed which helped to reduce the death rates. The reserve continues to split the revenue between the government and the local communities and allows the park's headquarters to effectively manage the park.

Young Red Colobus Monkey in Coral Rag Forest, Jozani, Zanzibar - Bee-Elle - African Wildlife Photography

Here, they are safe from being shot for food, sport, or ‘pest eradication’, however, their highly fragmented distribution exacerbates their already fragile existence. It's estimated that only half of the population lives inside the protected park- the rest live beyond the perimeters and on Pemba island, where they could, on any day, fall prey to a disgruntled farmer who faces an everyday battle to protect his precious crops. Their homes are equally susceptible to being destroyed due to increasing deforestation.

What they need

Red Colobus Monkey foot hanging from canopy in Coral Rag Forest, Jozani, Zanzibar - Bee-Elle - African Wildlife Photography

This monkey needs and deserves full legal protection across all of Zanzibar to ensure numbers do not drop any further, and better management plans to ensure sustainable solutions to mitigate human-wildlife conflict and habitat loss. Expanding protected areas by creating a new conservancy and protection of the remaining coral rag forests and mangrove habitats could be a start. Meanwhile, we watch as the numbers of this endangered primate decline.


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