The Zanzibar red colobus monkey is one of the world’s most endangered primates. Endemic to the island of Unguja, it is only found in a fraction of its historic range.
Medium sized for a monkey, Zanzibar red colobus adults grow up to 50cm tall and weigh around 7 kg. Females are slightly bigger but lighter and more slender than males. Males have broader shoulders, bigger skulls and longer canine teeth.
The Zanzibar red colobus is dependent upon the island’s ground-water forest (in Jozani Chwaka-Bay National Park-JCBNP) and a patchwork of coral-thicket forests from Kiwengwa-Pongwe Forest Reserve (KPFR) in the north to Mtende Forest on the southern tip of the island. The majority of these coral-thicket forests are small fragments, located outside of government protected areas, and are threatened by one of the highest human densities in Africa (>400 indivs/km2). Given that many other species rely on the same habitat, the Zanzibar red colobus is an excellent flagship species, and by protecting the monkeys and their habitat, we hope to protect all of Zanzibar’s unique flora and fauna.
WCS conducted the first complete census of the Zanzibar Red Colobus population, revealing an estimated total population of 5,862 individuals.
The vast majority of Zanzibar’s human population is dependent upon shifting cultivation and forest products such as building poles, firewood, and charcoal. Due to the high price of electricity, even Zanzibar’s urban population is heavily reliant on firewood and charcoal for cooking. Tree cutting to supply this demand continues to be a major threat to Zanzibar’s wildlife. Zanzibar is currently losing an estimated 3% of its forest each year. Thus, in order to conserve the Zanzibar red colobus and ensure the genetic viability of this species into the future, all of the remaining forest patches containing red colobus must be identified, protected and linked by functional corridors in a comprehensive Protected Areas network of community and government forests.
WCS was instrumental in designing a Protected Area (PA) network on Zanzibar. The network consists of Zanzibar’s (Unguja’s) two main protected areas, Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park (JCBNP) and Kiwengwa-Pongwe Forest Reserve (KPFR), as well as a series of forest patches and proposed corridors that occur on community lands. Most community lands are either zoned or in the process of being zoned into high protection zones, low impact use zones, or higher impact use zones such as agricultural and settlement zones. This zoning process is part of the development of Community Forest Management Agreements (CoFMA) giving the communities the mandate to manage their areas.
WCS has worked in partnership with the government and Village Conservation Councils to establish ecological monitoring programs across the island. These programs are crucial to the conservation of Zanzibar’s wildlife, including the Zanzibar red colobus, serving as an early warning system for detecting changes in threats and population status, and guiding law enforcement. To ensure that critical habitat is protected, in 2009 WCS began to work with government and 29 communities around JCBNP and KPFR to establish and strengthen law enforcement by training, equipping, and deploying government and community forest guardians.
On recognising the significant threat to Zanzibar’s forests, WCS carried out the first ever total census of Zanzibar’s iconic endemic species the Zanzibar red colobus (ZRC). The data collected detail every animal on the island as well as the location, size and demography of every ZRC group. WCS created and distributed conservation awareness materials including these data, aimed at demonstrating the value, threats and heritage of Zanzibar’s natural forests.