Coexisting with Colobus Monkeys
Mwitu Khalfani and Angela Gathoni are wildlife conservationists in Diani, Kenya. They manage conservation space and build bridges for monkeys to cross busy highways safely. Coexisting peacefully with the colobus monkeys in their local area can be difficult work — but it’s necessary and worth it.
“We shouldn’t have to wait until they’re endangered to start conserving them,” Angela shares. “They have needs right now and we have developed on their habitat, so we need to find a way to coexist.”
Meet Mwitu & Angela: wildlife conservationists
Mwitu Khalfani: Before, I used to take these monkeys as a nuisance. But with time, I came to understand they have their rights. They belong here. We found them in what used to be a big forest, like the entire Diani. So we encroached their territories. So since I understood that, I now feel like I need to protect these animals.
(Group of monkeys play on an old trampoline)
There was a troop of colobus which were trying to cross the road, and they were hit by a car. So Diani residents came together to find a mitigation measure. So they came up with an idea of building something like a bridge to help these colobus monkeys.
Angela Gathoni: I like the idea of conservation because you work for something beyond yourself. I grew up from a different region where we didn’t grow up around a lot of wild animals. But then when I got to see the effects of the human activities on the environment — it’s very hard to look away once you are exposed to it and to see primates are suffering because of our actions.
So through that, I was able to understand and to also have some compassion for the wildlife and the primates especially. You cannot give from an empty cup. If your heart is not full and your needs are not met and you’re struggling to make ends meet, it’s really hard for you to have compassion for anything else outside your species.
We shouldn’t have to wait until they’re endangered or they’re critically endangered to start conserving them. They have needs right now. And we have developed on their habitat, so we need to find a way to coexist and to be able to live with monkeys.
Mwitu: This is their home. This is their land. We found them here. So they have nowhere to go.
Angela: This is— (walks up toward a monkey)
Angela: … Louie. His Majesty, Louie. We call him His Majesty. He came to us from a family in Nairobi. They had found him abandoned somewhere so they took him in. But eventually, he grew up, and he started to exercise his dominance. So he started biting. That’s when they found out about colobus conservation, and they wanted to do the best for Louie. So they brought him down here.
It was quite a change for him. He was used to living with human beings, feeding on human food. He’d have bacon and eggs. And then now he had to come and learn how to forage and how to interact with other monkeys. So he’s doing really well.