By Iregi Mwenja
The Mt Uarges guereza, Colobus guereza ssp. percivali is one of the eight subspecies of the Colobus guereza species. It is endemic to the forests of Samburu and is the only one of the eight listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List.
According to the findings of a survey I headed in Mt Nyiro forest, Ndoto forest, Kirisia Hills and Mathews range forests (between April 2007 and December 2008), the subspecies has been heavily poached for its skin by the local community who wear it during traditional ceremonies like circumcision. The skin is worn by ‘Morans’ on the lower part of the shin and round the heads during such ceremonies.
Information we gathered over this period indicate that the ‘Lkoroi’ as it is locally known, once thrived on the eastern side of Mt Nyiro– Tum and Ewaso Rangai (lorian). Interviews with old men in Mt Nyiro and a retired colonial District Forest Officer who served in the area 50 years ago revealed that it is possible that there were guereza colobus in the Mt Nyiro forest up to the 1950s. All of them attributed the disappearance to poaching for the skin and habitat degradation due to encroachment during drought and periods of tribal conflict between the Samburu and the Turkana. The Turkana who use the skin as a head gear are said to have obtained it from Mt Nyiro as well.
In Kirisia Hills from the outskirts of Maralal to Baawa, Poro to Ang’ata Nanyuki, most of the adults interviewed admitted to having seen the subspecies in the forest in the last decade and blamed the dramatic decline of the subspecies population in this habitat on the proliferation of small arms which spiraled in the 1980s. Thea arrival of these semi automatic weapons made hunting the agile arboreal monkey extremely easy as oppossed to the traditional snare hunting methods. At Ol Dionyo Naju, we got reliable reports that the last remaining colobus in the area was killed in 2006 ostensibly for the skin. My fear is that Kirisia hills will soon go the Mt Nyiro way as it was clear that the monkey have been wiped out in most of its range within the Leroghi forest reserve. More....