By Iregi Mwenja
The findings of a recently concluded survey show that the Endangered Colobus guereza ssp. percivali, one of the eight subspecies of the colobus guereza is facing imminent threat of extinction due to poaching for its skin in Samburu, northern Kenya. The report titled; “The distribution of the Endangered Mt Uarges guereza, in Samburu, northern Kenya” recommends urgent actions to save the endemic subspecies from further decline. The study was the first ever on-the-ground survey of this rare primate.
The subspecies, commonly referred to as Mt Uarges guereza (or Uarguess guereza) is named after Mt Uarges, one of the mountain ranges that make up the Mathews range where the subspecies was first reported. It is only found in three forests of Samburu, within a small geographic range of less than 150 sq km that extends from Kirisia Hills to Mathews range and Ndoto forests.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species list subspecies C. g. ssp percivali as Endangered on account of this restricted distribution and the risk if faces from hunting for its skins by the local community. However, the entire species Colobus guereza is listed as Least Concern in IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as this widespread species is not thought to be declining fast enough to place it in a higher category of threat.
According to the findings of this survey that was led by Iregi Mwenja in Mt Nyiro forest, Ndoto forest, Kirisia Hills and Mathews range forest, the subspecies has for a long time been poached for its skin by the local community who use it during traditional ceremonies like circumcision. The skin is worn by ‘Morans’ (young men) who tie two pieces round the leg above the ankle to cover the feet. The skins was also used for other traditional ceremonies most of which have now been discarded.
The scariest finding was the ‘extinction’ of the Mt Nyiro population last seen in the 1950s. Information we gathered coupled with our on-the-ground assessment early in the study indicate that the ‘Lkoroi’ as it is locally known, once thrived on the western side of Mt Nyiro i.e. Tum and R Ewaso Rongai at Lorian more than five decades ago. Our ground survey teams that surveyed Ewaso Rongai, Tum and across from South Horr to Kosikosi and Kurante via Lonjolin did not find any guereza colobus in these areas. More....