Kikélé village is the only known forest in the world that harbors a mixed-species group of the critically endangered white-thighed colobus (Colobus vellerosus) and the mona monkey (Cercopithecus mona). The co-PI, Raimi Chabi Ota of the Conservation Association of Benin Fauna and Flora, with whom I share equal responsibility towards this project, is the eldest son of the chief of the village that has protected the monkeys for hundreds of years, but the migrants in nearby villages who lack respect for the traditional taboo against hunting threaten the future of the primates. Forest loss and forest degradation due to expansions of the farmland have also reduced the size of the forest. This project obtains feeding and ranging behavior data on this habituated group during the wet season and the dry season to examine when and where the study group ranges out of Kikélé. This project allows us to identify keystone food species and where the seedlings of the species should be planted in developing corridors between fragmented forests. To mitigate the poaching threat, we have also initiated educational programs targeting hunters and school children, advocating the importance of primates in a healthy forest ecosystem. Also, to provide an alternative source of income to hunters, we have begun installing a number of beehives and training them in the practice of beekeeping. We are also conducting primate surveys in a few nearby community forests where our interviews had suggested that C. vellerosus may still occur. Identifying any remaining population of this species is important.
By obtaining the knowledge regarding the keystone plant species and the monkeys' spatial use pattern of the forest, we will be able to develop more effective conservation strategies. Successful implementation of this project has a potential to turn things around for C. vellerosus in Benin and in West Africa.
Project 170515480 location - Benin, Africa