Diani has seen a strong growth in the tourism sector in the last decades leading to deforestation and forest fragmentation. While some primates such as the colobus are threatened with population decline, others such as the yellow baboon are able to adapt to a human-dominated environment. Baboons are opportunistic feeders, omnivorous and take advantage of human food because it is high in energy and a very predictable resource. Baboons living in these conditions can become serious pests, leading to conflicts between humans and baboons especially when baboons raid crop fields or steal food from kitchens and gardens. Read more
As part of the Colobus Conservation Primate Pest Management programme a systematic study of the local baboon population was conducted during the last three months 2012. The aim of the study was to determine the home range of the different troops, quantify the proportion of provisioned food (crops, garbage and ‘stolen’ food) in the diet and identify sites with the potential for human-baboon conflicts.
The preliminary results of the study showed that overall provisioned food makes up a much smaller proportion of the diet (15%) than was anticipated. However, there are marked differences between the troops with some troops relying to more than 20% on provisioned food. An especially surprising result was that the density of baboons is very high in Diani, it is more than three times higher than in other areas in Kenya where baboons also feed on provisioned food. Such a high baboon density can only be supported because of the high amount and easy accessibility of human derived foods.
The study revealed that garbage piles are by far the most important source of provisioned food. This emphasizes that hotels and residents alike can contribute to a decrease in conflicts with baboons by improving their waste management. In addition one baboon troop feeds heavily on crops while another steals food from a hotel kitchen on a daily basis which are further sites of conflict that could be tackled. Although Colobus Conservation strongly advises residents and tourist not to feed monkeys, several instances of people feeding baboons were recorded. This undermines efforts to repel baboons from human-dominated areas.
This study revealed interesting patterns in habitat use and feeding behaviour which will allow Colobus Conservation to set priorities when it comes to reducing conflicts between humans and baboons. When residents in Diani face problems with primates they can contact Colobus Conservation for help in assessing the problem and finding suitable solutions.