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Thursday, 26 July 2012

Patas Monkeys: the pride of Laikipia

By Dennis Kipkirui    

Patas population in Laikipia is not declining as is appears to be the case elsewhere in Kenya. Its numbers has largely remained stable. Countrywide the population has declined by almost 54%.
This has largely been attributed to the low density at which they occur in East Africa making them prone to local extinction.
Patas Monkey found in Laikipia
Patas are semi-terrestrial types of monkeys. They are usually large and shy and readily recognized by the brick-red upper parts and long, white limbs. Unlike the western or southern patas which have an all black face they have a blackish face, with a white nose and moustache. They have large home ranges and live in groups of 2 to 74 individuals. The adult male, which is approximately the size of an adult goat, is about twice the size of the adult female.  

Conservationists attribute the high survival rate of patas in Kenya and Laikipia in particular to livestock ranching, which is an important economic activity in Laikipia. Well managed range-lands have also boosted their numbers. Laikipia has perennial availability of food and water with extensive lands dominated by acacia woodlands. This has made it possible for patas to thrive. Large ranches provide well maintained all-year round sources of water that continue to provide good habitat for patas.

However, in some parts of Laikipia, elephants, giraffes and rhinos over-browse the acacia to such an extent that adequate food and sleeping sites for patas are not available. In addition, as for much of Kenya, large areas of Laikipia are being unsustainably used by livestock keepers and charcoal makers, or transformed to cropland. The resultant loss of natural habitat increasingly threatens patas and, of course, many other species.

The eastern patas are mainly found in western Ethiopia, southern Sudan, northern Democratic Republic of Congo, northern and western Uganda, and central and southern Kenya.

To conserve the population of patas in Laikipia, it is important to monitor changes in its distribution and size. The last survey of patas in Laikipia was conducted 12 years ago. Its approximate population was between 300 to 500.There is therefore need to conduct fresh census to have adequate information on how to protect this rare monkey species. However, it must be noted that the local community must realize real benefits from this rare primate because it will be a futile exercise if not relevant to the realities of the people who control and use the resources that need to be conserved.

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