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Volunteer Stories

Since 1998, Colobus Conservation has hosted over 400 volunteers in Diani Beach, Kenya from dozens of countries including Australia, France, Kenya, India, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States. The volunteers, whether short term or long, have been essential in carrying out the core work of the organisation whether it is feeding the monkeys awaiting release, participating in capturing sick and injured animals or carrying out research to monitor our conservation activities. 

Volunteer backgrounds have been varied - both primatology, animal welfare and ecology students and researchers -- as well as other types of scientists, naturalists, and even artists, marketing professionals, business people, teachers, engineers and a builder came to do renovations on our offices. Colobus Conservation welcomes people with all sorts of backgrounds and interests -- so don't be scared to apply! It all depends upon you.



Some Volunteer Stories

Selina Brinch

The place is lush. There is so much greenery and diversity and down a stony path is the beach. The sand is white, the sea is turquoise and there are loads of palm trees. Being in this coastal forest with baboons, vervet, Sykes and colobus monkeys moving freely around meant I’d already gotten everything out of this trip I’d hoped for.

One night a man and his 8-year-old son arrived with an infant Sykes monkey they’d found in a very poor condition. We quickly realised the emergency and went to fetch Dennis the vet. I watched as Dennis skilfully gave medical care to the dehydrated, limp little monkey in the clinic. After that Samantha (a researcher) and I spent the night looking after this little creature feeding her liquid from a syringe. Sadly, by the third day the monkey died. The next day I had the option of witnessing Dennis carry out her necropsy. I was hesitant but having been responsible for her whilst she was alive I realised this would be the most direct way to understand why she died. During the necropsy, we discovered that the infant had been suffering from internal head injuries and that there would have been little chance of saving her. It was very sad that this happened but it taught me about the reality of primate conservation.

I really enjoyed being able to use skills I rarely use at my desk job in London. For example, I designed and built a bamboo structure for a Bush Baby enclosure with limited tools and materials. Trudging around in wellingtons and being outside has been a much-needed change in scenery for me. I’ve had a real laugh working together with the staff here and I am looking forward to going on safari tomorrow with fellow Colobus residents Alice, Ben and Samantha before I leave for the UK.


Nicola Field

Volunteer: I discovered Colobus Conservation whilst researching Colobus monkeys on the internet for work. I have worked at a safari park in the UK for nearly 7 years and have a particular interest in primates. I have an Open University graduate and am currently studying for a Masters in Wildlife Biology and Conservation. I was coming to Kenya for a holiday with two friends and had an extra week to take off work. I contacted the trust to see if I could get involved in some voluntary work. Although they normally take volunteers for 3 months they agreed to take me for a week!

I had a fantastic time at the Colobus Conservation, carrying out a pest assessment at a local hotel with one of the other volunteers. Its a great place to work and relax. The staff and volunteers were all so warm and welcoming. My only regret was not being able to stay longer.

Thomas Njoroge

All you see is green,
You take it all in with a grin.
Don’t know what to expect here,
Though birds you do hear.

Some leaves rustle high above,
All you see is the tail curve.
Then the face appears,
As the colobus above peers.

This was my first glimpse,
And apart were my lips.
Will always treasure beyond compare,
Learnt a lot while I was here,

The special bond that is there.
Time has come for me to leave,
Thanks to all the staff,
I really do grieve.

Wishing the best for those here.
Including those who were tough.
Hoping to see you all again,
Because more I will gain.

Nadia Gambetta
I have always been interested in conservation and have often wondered how I could be more proactive. I heard about the Colobus Conservation and their work in constructing Colobridges across the Diani road through BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers). As a structural engineer this seemed like the perfect place to spend my annual leave and attempt to use my skills in a new challenging environment whilst carrying out hands-on conservation work.

The work I have been involved in here, although of a structural nature, is very different to the type of work I carry out in London. I am used to sitting in an office designing structures from steel and concrete and suddenly I find myself working with local materials on the protection of timber from termites and rot in the rainy season. Along with being able to give something to Colobus Conservation, I found that I also learnt a great deal about subjects I knew little about in the past such as primate behaviour and societies and botany.

In addition, the cottage surroundings allowed me to unwind after a hard day’s work by sitting on the veranda looking out onto the Indian Ocean listening for the resident bushbabies. Truly a fantastic experience into another culture, environment and way of life.

Dan Armstrong

"Although I am not a scientist, I've always been really interested in primates and have been planning on taking a break from work in business. After looking at a few different programmes I contacted Colobus Conservation to see if they'd have the free space for a volunteer for the summer. Diani seemed like an amazing place to take such a break. In the jungle and on the beach - it seemed too good to be real.

"The weather and people are amazing here in Diani and the experience is really different for me. I spend most of my time during the year in offices typing on a laptop, but I've had an amazing time and have learned a whole lot - things I'd never conceived I would learn.

"I've been working on a lot of new daily activities like tree species projects, animal welfare and emergencies (feeding and rehabilitation of a liberated vervet and baboon, a female baboon hit by a car, an injured male vervet, electrocuted female colobus and even a beached dolphin) and at the same time, I am working on new Trust communications and business plans and sharing some of my knowledge about business planning, websites, computers and design with the staff here"

"This is a wonderful balance between what I can give and what I am learning. It is close to the forest and I feel that I am really helping getting things accomplished that mean something. And I am only halfway done!"

Meghan Anderson

Trying to put into words my feelings, the experiences I had, and the people I met in Kenya working for the Colobus Conservation is difficult. Imagine leaving home traveling to a country around the world where you know no one. It sounds intimidating and a bit scary, and I can tell you that it was. However, that time away taught me more than the four years I spent in college.

I worked with Colobus Conservation for 4½ months collecting census data on the local primate species and colobridge use, giving nature tours, conducting a survey of hotel employees to determine their understanding of the monkeys, implementing a monkey management workshop for hotel employees, and Getting a Tan! Being the fair skinned freckled girl that I am, my family didn’t believe me until I got home and they saw my tan lines.

As a result of my experiences with the Colobus Conservation, I have started my Masters program in non-profit management and plan to work in the field of animal conservation. I have more self-respect and have learned that I can live anywhere and be surrounded by people I love and who love me. I anxiously await my next opportunity to travel outside the United States and see old friends, but they know that we are never far apart.

Nicola Cunningham

As a Zoology graduate with particular interest in animal welfare and conservation, the Colobus Conservation caught my eye. When I arrived, however, I found myself working in a much wider variety of activities.

In the field of animal welfare, I helped with animal rescues, rehabilitation of captive monkeys, veterinary assistance and capturing and tracking monkeys in the forests. I enjoyed this work immensely, as it gave me the opportunity to see monkeys in their natural environment and to actually help with their conservation, something I never had the opportunity to do before. My favourite animal rescue case was a baboon in a road accident that we were sure would not survive – however we successfully released her less than a month later, back into her troop.

I was also encouraged to use my other skills such as writing an education programme entitled “Biodiversity and Ecosystems” for the field assistants to teach the secondary school pupils. When it was discovered that I like to draw, I was enlisted to do anything from designing logos to drawing all the local birds to display in a book for the school children and was extremely pleased with the result.

Myself and one of the field assistants, Bakari, developed a way to label trees in the grounds of one of Diani’s top hotels – following research, we produced a booklet containing all tree information from Swahili and Latin names to ancient use of the leaves in medicine. These booklets were then reproduced, to be placed in hotel bedrooms for tourists to peruse at their leisure.

Benj Whitworth

My name is Benj Whitworth and along with my friend Mark Flinn we volunteered at Colobus Conservation for 6 months. Arriving at the Colobus Conservation was incredible, we walked down the dirt road through a tunnel of coral rag forest filled with thousands of butterflies, and reached a little house that overlooks a brilliant blue-green ocean and reef.

I am an ecologist, specialising in animal behaviour and conservation and so the Colobus Conservation was the ideal combination of these two activities. I worked on animal welfare, behavioural research, census, and pest animals.

We spent many hours waiting to catch injured sykes monkeys and were often outwitted. I took part in the census at Shimba hills where we walked through rainforest (and it was raining and cold) looking for fleeting glimpses of vanishing colobus. I spent hours also drinking coffee next to large blue pools in classy hotels waiting for rogue pest vervet monkeys to arrive so I could research their behaviour. But most of my time was spent on behavioural research, following colobus throughout the day recording their movements, feeding, resting and social behaviour. It was so interesting for me as their behaviour is so diverse, although difficult at times crawling through forest, getting caught in thorns or rained on and often losing the troops. I now work on agricultures effects on the environment in Australia and sit in an office all day (and dream)....