How can saving this fluffy monkey help Africa’s forests?

Cameroonian researchers plan to use the red colobus monkey (Piliocolobus spp.) both as a standard bearer of conservation and a barometer of forest health.

Red colobus monkeys are arboreal monkeys of 17 species found in African rainforests from Senegal in the west to Zanzibar (Tanzania) in the east, with more than 75% of the species endangered or critically endangered. ‘extinction.

Florence Aghomo, researcher and coordinator of the Red Colobus Conservation Network (RCCN), says these monkeys are an ideal flagship primate species for Africa, as each forest bioregion in Africa is represented by its own endemic red colobus species.

“They are the proverbial canary in the coal mines, being the first large mammal to become extinct (wiped out) from an area due to hunting, as they are slow, large in size (providing more meat per unit of effort) and remarkable; they can therefore be monitored to serve as an early warning indicator,” she says.

In 2024 Conservation letters In this paper, Aghomo and his co-authors argue that red colobus species can act as critical barometers of forest health and serve as leading models to spark broader efforts to conserve Africa’s rainforests.

“Red colobus monkeys contribute to the dispersal of plant seeds: they consume a variety of fruits, seeds and leaves, then disperse the undigested seeds in their feces,” explains Aghomo, adding that they are also important prey for various species. of predators.

“Their presence and abundance can reflect the overall health of forest ecosystems, and therefore human health,” she says. “Motivating local people and governments to preserve red colobus monkeys involves a mix of economic incentives, education and community engagement.

Aghomo explains that ecotourism and payment for ecosystem services can provide financial benefits, while educational programs and community workshops raise awareness of the importance of conservation.

“Training local communities and using technology for resource management, encouraging sustainable development practices, and recognizing outstanding local conservation efforts through awards can increase motivation and commitment to the conservation of red colobus and their habitat,” she said.

Conservation in Cameroon

Aghomo was born and raised in the small town of Kumba, southwest Cameroon, in an isolated neighborhood close to agricultural land and primary and secondary forests.

“Going to the forest was one of my favorite activities. It was always a peaceful place for me with a special scent and melody,” she says, adding that when she was a child, she would go to the forest with her friends and his family to reap fruits. , leaves and firewood.

After National Geographic documentaries sparked interest in a career exploring forests when she was a teenager, Aghomo’s father suggested she apply for a forestry program at the University of Dschang, where he had studied.

“Fortunately, I was admitted into the 2008 cohort of the FASA Forestry Department’s five-year Forestry and Wildlife Engineer program,” she says, adding that she would then return to her home region to conduct field work and academic research. before joining the red colobus conservation initiative.

Aghomo explains that scientists from the Global South should be included and consulted in global decision-making, because some communities in these countries rely heavily on natural resources.

“This means that the loss of biodiversity and forest cover will have a direct impact on their livelihoods and health,” she says, adding that these communities have traditional ecological knowledge that is essential for conservation.

“I believe that empowering local communities is the key to conservation: many people live close to the forest, have great knowledge of the landscape and species and are aware of the threats, but unfortunately they have not had the opportunity to go there. in school like me,” she says, adding that local people can be trained to conduct basic biodiversity surveys, develop conservation strategies and help them implement these strategies.

Protecting the Golden Langur in Bhutan

In another southern region, Kuenzang Dorji, a primatologist at the Bhutanese government’s Nature Center, is helping to reduce conflicts between marginalized farmers and the endangered golden langur monkey.

The golden langur of Gee, Trachypithecus geei, is a monkey found in a small forest belt in India and Bhutan; considered auspicious and is one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world.

“This work is particularly timely as the population of endangered golden langurs is in decline and they are increasingly exposed to preventable anthropogenic threats such as road mortality and electrocution “, did he declare.

Dorji explains that by mapping hotspots of human-langur interaction, designing non-lethal methods to protect crops, and conducting awareness programs, he and his team are able to reduce human pressure on golden langurs , a threatened species.

“Finding practical and sustainable solutions is crucial to ensuring food security for vulnerable communities,” he says. “Approaches such as citizen science, community participation in research and conservation efforts, dynamic leadership, conservation policies and adherence to Buddhist principles offer endless hope for Bhutan to become a champion of conservation.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *