Help protect Colobus Monkeys & forest in Kenya

by Action Change (Formerly GVI Trust)
Help protect Colobus Monkeys & forest in Kenya
Help protect Colobus Monkeys & forest in Kenya
Help protect Colobus Monkeys & forest in Kenya
Help protect Colobus Monkeys & forest in Kenya
Help protect Colobus Monkeys & forest in Kenya
Help protect Colobus Monkeys & forest in Kenya
Help protect Colobus Monkeys & forest in Kenya
Help protect Colobus Monkeys & forest in Kenya
Help protect Colobus Monkeys & forest in Kenya
Help protect Colobus Monkeys & forest in Kenya
Help protect Colobus Monkeys & forest in Kenya
Help protect Colobus Monkeys & forest in Kenya

Dear supporter,

I am happy to report this project as funded! GVI have been working in Shimoni since January 2006 undertaking research in this important patch of 'coral rag' coastal forest, aiming to highlight its biodiversity conservation value and monitor the status of its beautiful but threatened Angolan black and white colobus monkey. 

We also recognise the importance of the forest to the local people as well as the wildlife and we aimed to build capacity to sustain a harmonious relationship between them. East Africa's coastal forests are a global biodiversity hotspot and here in Shimoni our forest supports one of Kenya's top 3 most critical populations of the Angolan black and white colobus, the critically endangered spotted ground thrush, near-threatened southern-banded snake eagle and the charismatic but vulnerable Zanj elephant shrew. 

The communities of Shimoni, Anziwani and other local villages depended on their forest for fire wood, poles to build their homes and trees to make the dug out canoes and fish traps that they still depend on for their principal livelihood, fishing, as they have for hundreds of years. Shimoni forest also contains over 20 'kaya' forests - sacred shrines were ancestors were buried and village elders continue to respect centuries-old rituals and leave their offerings of honey and rose-water. 

GVI have spent over 3 years surveying the forest, cataloguing the immense biological value of this isolated patch and also the rate of habitat loss. In November 2007 we helped set up Friends of Shimoni Forest, a community-based organisation that is taking our scientific research to the local community, raising awareness of both what they have and what they stand to lose. 

The local community have begun their own patrols, supported by Kenya Wildlife Service, to protect their vital forest resources, their local administration has banned power saws, and with the help of GVI are reaching out to Shimoni's children so that they can take pride in their incredible natural resources and understand the global conservation value of their forest. 

We have been working with Friends of Shimoni Forest to get eco-tourism on the agenda with guided forest walks to see the beautiful Angolan black and white colobus in one their few remaining natural habitats in Kenya. It was set up in collaboration with GVI who provided initial funding and training. The aim of the group is to raise awareness of the importance of the forest not just in terms of resource use and ecosystem services for local communities, but also in terms of eco-tourism benefits to the village. Their activities include; an indigenous re-forestation program, forest research program, active forest patrols with KWS rangers monitoring for illegal activity, alternative charcoal initiatives, the support and funding of alternative livelihoods, provision of scholarships to local school children and wildlife and conservation education to members of the local community and visiting external parties. Friends of Shimoni Forest have been offering eco-walks into the Shimoni forest’s for tourists for two years now, with support training in biodiversity research techniques from qualified GVI personnel. The Eco-walks involve tourists trekking into the forest visiting the home of endemic and rare plants and animals such as the Angolan Black and White Colobus monkey, the Black and Rufous Elephant Shrew and the critically endangered Spotted Ground Thrush. Tour guides also point out Kaya sites and provide cultural context pertaining to these.

FSF have designed a scheme of tourism activities and a new brochure which is being distributed in hospitality and tourism spots up to Mombasa. The brochure highlights both the significance of Shimoni Forest as well as promoting other local community groups and their activities, including Kisite Marine Park tours, Shimoni Slave Caves and various cultural experiences within Shimoni village. GVI provided computer training in brochure design and production, so in the future the group will be able to update and create new brochures when needed. The group is offering affordable full board home-stay experiences within the village for an authentic Shimoni experience. Alternatively tourists can receive a traditional Swahili style meal whilst learning about coastal culture. GVI staff members helped the group to identify suitable home-stay venues which had basic sanitation infrastructure. Increased tourism revenue will be invested by the group back into their core activities and objectives. The group also hopes that the brochure and organized activities will raise awareness of alternative tourism activities in Shimoni which complement the marine park experience. 

Many thanks for all your support for this project, I hope you have enjoyed seeing over the years and reading the difference you have helped us to make.

All the best


Charitable Trust manager


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Two GVI staff members were invited by the Chairman of Friends of Shimoni Forest to visit a couple of the scared Kaya's that have been part of the human landscape in Shimoni forest for hundreds of years. In addition to the biological value, Shimoni forest holds cultural value to the Digo and other Mijikenda tribes that live along the coast. The traditional inhabitants of these areas still practice ancient rituals and ceremonies at the Kaya's located deep within the forest. These Kaya's are the ancient burial grounds of their ancestors and offerings in the form of gifts, prayers and sacrifices are given to the spiritual inhabitants of the Kaya's, which have been passed down through generations and are of utmost importance to their users.

We are not allowed to visit the Kaya's without an 'mzee' (elder), so we met up with the Mzee in Anziwani village who guided us in to the forest in search of the Kaya's. As we approached the sacred place we had to remove our shoes as the Mzee recited prayers to the spirits asking for permission to enter. The first Kaya was a cave with a well, where the villagers in the past used to collect water and pray. We sat next to the cave while the Mzee quietly explained the history and legends of the Kaya. The second one we visited was a very strange coral rag formation, like a small ravine or gorge, close to the beautiful mangroves. This Kaya was marked with old flags and again we removed our shoes and listened entranced to the myths and rituals borne of this natural, spiritual place.
The reason for our visit was to help Friends of Shimoni Forest set up guided walks through the forest. The tours would include visits to the shrines, followed by a walk through the forest to see the birds, monkeys and other animals that inhabit this biodiversity hotspot. Friends of Shimoni Forest intend these tours to raise money for their community-based organisation by harnessing eco-tourism, and plough the money back in to community projects that will aid the protection of the forest. They also hope the endeavour will raise awareness of the importance of the forest locally, nationally and internationally.
We were very moved by the Kaya's, their history and the respect that members of the community still show them. Very few outsiders have ever been allowed to see the Kaya's and we did not take this privilege for granted. Hopefully together with Friends of Shimoni Forest we can get guided walks up and running and take a step closer to saving this endangered forest.


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We wanted to share with you a report from one of our amazing interns in Kenya:

Along our journey into Shimoni forest, we ran into our lovely friends, the Angola Black and White Colobus monkey, a Unique species that seem to effortlessly flourish in Shimoni's dense forest. We paused our survey from time to time to observe our black and white buddies swinging through the canopy above us, their faces strangely resembling grumpy old men staring you down from the comfort of a rocking chair.

We made sure to count all of the perched primates on our way through the forest, invading their privacy by examining their behinds (white stripe for males) to determine gender and cooing at their adorable young. As we sat to enjoy our abundance of sandwiches at lunch time we noticed our Colobus count was abnormally high for an average morning in the forest and, in fact, we were approaching the record of 60 monkeys seen in one survey day. From then on it became the objective of the day: beat the record. We looked up in every tree, binoculars at eye level, we were at the ready. It seemed the more we looked the more we found, groups of 7, 10, 12 Colobus just on the road home! We found ourselves quickly surpassing the record and still going strong, more and more primates were popping their heads out to greet us.

When we reached the path back to the GVI house we did an official count and found that we had seen a total of 85 monkeys throughout our day in the forest, completely shattering the old record. And considering the estimated population of Colobus in Shimoni East is approximately 150, I'd say we did pretty dang well.


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African Primates cover
African Primates cover

Exciting news from the GVI Shimoni base to end a fantastic year in the work conducted to protect the Colobus Monkeys in Kenya.

GVI Shimoni operations were launched in 2006 with the objective of running two long-term research programmes; one based in the marine protected area and one based in Shimoni Forest. Overseen by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and qualified GVI staff, the research programs utilize a team of international volunteers and young Kenya KWS Training Institutes graduates to collect data in the field.

An article has been published based on data collected under the GVI/KWS research program. The article is titled "Activity Budgets of Peters’ Angola Black-and-White Colobus (Colobus angolensis palliatus) in an East African Coastal Forest” and was published in African Primates (the Journal of the African section of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group). 

By combining the donations received from our supporters, the resource of research hours GVI volunteers provide, with the skills and knowledge required to analyze and publish data, we are ensuring that the hard work put in by our volunteers is translating into useful conservation tools for managers, both within Kenya and globally. 

Thank you for your support in 2012 and we hope for another successful year in 2013!


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We are lucky enough to have an update from a current volutneer out in the field. Read on for her first hand account of life out in Shimoni...!

Its 8:13am and the sun strikes my back as if its midday. Our feet hit the red earth of the road out to Kibuyuni, a village to Shimoni’s west. There are a couple of groups of colobus along this road, and we walk in search of their little black and white faces peering down at us.

It was my first day on the forest project. I had my four litres of water, my sunglasses, my silly sunhat, my binoculars. And my new found appreciation for birds. Up until this point birds were just, well, birds. Pretty, feathery animals that took to the sky without fear of heights. But as we walked with the sun hitting our faces we spotted a particular bird of prey.Majestically it sat atop a dead tree, unobscured by leaves, open for all to see. The hooked beak and searing eyes at the front of its head gave an air of “don’t mess with me.” While the others scrambled to get the bird book out to identify it, I took photo after photo, creeping closer and closer, till I stood mere metres from the base of the tree. From there it eyed me lazily before continuing to survey the horizon.

As my camera clicked away an overloaded motorcycle rode past, causing it to take flight. Luckily I had my finger on the button and I was ready. It turns out this photo was the defining image in determining what kind of bird this was.

Turns out we had spotted a Southern-Banded Snake Eagle, one of two threatened birds in this area. The IUCN list it as “Near Threatened” which I liken to saying “its screwed but not as screwed as polar bears.”

And so my introduction to the forest went, a lovely introduction indeed, and since then, my love and appreciation (and dare I say obsession) with birds has only continued to grow.

Tina Thornburn- Volunteer 

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Organization Information

Action Change (Formerly GVI Trust)

Location: London - United Kingdom
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Sophie Birkett
GVI Charitable Trust Manager
London, London United Kingdom

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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