Hope for one of the world's rarest primates: First census of Zanzibar Red Colobus monkey

December 14, 2017

STONE TOWN, Zanzibar, Tanzania (Dec.14, 2017) - A team of WCS scientists recently completed the first-ever range-wide population census of the Zanzibar red colobus monkey (Piliocolobus kirkii) an endangered primate found only on the Zanzibar archipelago off the coast of East Africa.

The good news: there are more than three times as many Zanzibar red colobus monkeys (more than 5,800 individual animals) than previously thought, and many more monkeys living within protected areas than outside of them. And the bad news: survivorship of young animals is very low, species now extinct in 4 areas, forest habitat on which the primates and others species depend are rapidly being cleared for agriculture and tourism development projects and hunting is common.

The paper titled "Zanzibar's endemic red colobus Piliocolobus kirkii: first systematic and total assessment of population, demography and distribution" has been published in the online version of the journal Oryx. The authors are: Tim R.B. Davenport; Said A. Fakih; Sylvanos P. Kimiti; Lydia U. Kleine; Lara S. Foley; and Daniela W. De Luca.

"Scientists have known about the Zanzibar red colobus monkey for 150 years, yet this is the first systematic study of this poorly understood species across its entire range," said Dr. Tim Davenport, Director of WCS's Tanzania Country Program and the lead author of the study. "The systematic assessment redefines almost everything we know about this amazing animal, and is now guiding effective management strategies for this species."

Seeking to gain a better understanding of the status and ecological needs of the Zanzibar red colobus monkey, the WCS team of researchers spent two years (4,725 hours spent in the field) searching for and observing the arboreal primates. The surveys occurred both within and outside of protected areas on the main Zanzibar island of Unguja, and the scientists employed a new sweep census technique to collect data on group sizes and structures, demographics, and locations with the help of GPS devices.

The results of the study provided researchers with proof that Zanzibar's protected areas are, to some extent, working. Some 69 percent of the population of Zanzibar red colobus monkeys live inside Unguja's protected area network, and monkey groups found within protected areas boasted both higher average group sizes and more females per group.

Conversely, the assessment also highlighted challenges for conservation. Especially for the more than 30 percent of the monkey's population that live outside of protected areas. The scientists discovered that four of the forests previously known to contain Zanzibar red colobus monkeys no longer do. Four other locations were found to contain only one family group, which are unlikely to survive in isolation.

One of the largest threats to the Zanzibar red colobus monkey is deforestation. Forests on Zanzibar's main island of Unguja are being lost at a rate of more than 19 square kilometers per year due to agricultural activities, residential development, and human population growth. The hunting of monkeys for food and retaliation for crop raiding is also a concern.

The authors recommend creating a new protected area to further safeguard the Zanzibar red colobus monkey as well as increasing primate and forest tourism operations. The team has also suggested making the primate the official national animal of Zanzibar.

"The Zanzibar red colobus monkey is unique to Zanzibar and could be a wonderful example of how conservation efforts can succeed in protecting both wildlife and habitat, which in turn benefits communities" added Davenport, who recently presented the study's results to the Zanzibar government. "The species could serve as a fitting symbol for both Zanzibar and the government's foresight in wildlife management."

WCS will work with the Government of Zanzibar to initiate a flagship species program that will protect both primates and the archipelago's remaining forests.
-end-
WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)

MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world's oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.

Wildlife Conservation Society

Related Primates Articles from Brightsurf:

When new males take over, these female primates hurry up and mature
Most mammals--including humans and other primates--reach sexual maturity early or late depending on lots of different factors, such as how much food there is to eat.

Primates aren't quite frogs
Researchers in Japan demonstrated for the first time the 'spinal motor module hypothesis' in the primate arm, wherein the brain recruits interneuronal modules in the spinal cord rather than individual muscles to create movement and different modules can be combined to create specific movements.

Researchers reversibly disable brain pathway in primates
For the first time ever, neurophysiologists of KU Leuven, Harvard and the University of Kyoto have succeeded in reversibly disabling a connection between two areas in the brains of primates while they were performing cognitive tasks, or while their entire brain activity was being monitored.

The larynx has evolved more rapidly in primates
The larynx is larger, more variable in size, and has undergone faster rates of evolution in primates than in carnivores, according to a study published August 11, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Daniel Bowling of Stanford University, W.

Single-shot COVID-19 vaccine protects non-human primates
A leading COVID-19 vaccine candidate, developed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, creates the groundwork for a newly launched COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial.

Research bias may leave some primates at risk
Recent primate research has had a heavy focus on a few charismatic species and nationally protected parks and forests, leaving some lesser known primates and their habitats at risk, according researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Santa Clara University.

Showy primates have smaller testicles
Well-adorned or well-endowed -- but not both. Evolutionary biologists at the University of Zurich have for the first time demonstrated that male primates either have large testicles or showy ornaments.

Short birth intervals associated with higher offspring mortality in primates
Shorter intervals between primate births are associated with higher mortality rates in offspring, finds a new study of macaque monkeys.

HIV vaccine protects non-human primates from infection
New research shows that an experimental HIV vaccine strategy works in non-human primates.

Oldest-known ancestor of modern primates may have come from North America, not Asia
A new fossil analysis suggests the earliest-known ancestor of modern primates may have come from North America, not Asia, as previously thought.

Read More: Primates News and Primates Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.