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Red colobus conservation in Zanzibar: A cautiously optimistic tale

17 / 05 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

Thabit Masoud is proud of the work he and his colleagues have pulled off on Zanzibar. As part of the development NGO CARE International, they helped set up a conservation project to protect the largest remaining stand of natural forest on the island, located just off the coast of Tanzania. The forest is home to the endemic Zanzibar red colobus (Piliocolobus kirkii), an endangered species of monkey also known as Kirk’s red colobus. The monkey, one of the rarest primates in Africa and found only on Zanzibar’s main island, had seen its population decline to less than 2,000 individuals in the 1990s. But thanks to the establishment of the Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park in 2004, it is estimated there are now more than 5,000 individuals. The red colobus has become a flagship species for conservation success in Zanzibar, and now attracts up to 60,000 visitors per year to the national park. But Jozani-Chwaka Bay wasn’t created with just the protection of colobuses in mind. The park was established in a participatory process with local communities, with the explicit aim that community members should benefit from the money brought in by growing numbers of tourists. “Already before 1995, tourists had arrived and communities started realizing that the government was collecting money from monkeys,” says Masoud. Yet it was those same monkeys that destroyed the small patches of banana or cassava that farmers were growing, undermining any incentive for conservation. “This caused huge conflict. Communities were not allowed to scare the red…

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