Nigeria: Conservationists Walk for Niger Delta Red Colobus Monkey in Bayelsa

2 April 2019

Conservationists have embarked on an awareness campaign to save from extinction the Niger Delta Red Colobus Monkey (Poliocolobus epieni) in Bayelsa State.

The awareness campaign/rally to drive the obvious need to protect and conserve the critically endangered Niger Delta Red Colombus monkey (Poliocolobus epieni) held at the city center of Yenagoa, Bayelsa state, recently.

According to a statement by the leader, Dr. Mathew Dore, participants were drawn from all walks of life, including, but not limited, to the trained participants, the resource persons that trained the participants, forestry departments, ministry of environments, representatives from the three communities (Gbanraun, Apoi, and Kokologbene villages) - making a total of 342 participants. Participants arrived at the Ministry of Environment building for a pre-walk conference.

All participants were made to congregate at the base floor of the Ministry of Environment at the early hours of 10 am. While the participants arrived, T-shirts and caps branded with the image and inscriptions emphasizing the awareness of the colobus monkeys were shared to all participants to be worn for the campaign. Additionally, banners, handbills, flyers, and stickers similarly branded were also shared to participants for display.

The campaign train was led through the major areas of the city center covering a total of about six kilometers on a stretch, starting from Ekeki Park to the Hospital junction. The attention of the populace and the target population was drawn by the mellifluous tones of sounds produced by the band, trumpets, and chants of songs from the participants.

At the end of the awareness campaign, participants re-congregated at the base of the Ministry of Environment, where various branded campaign materials like the banners, caps, stickers, handbills, among others, were distributed in bags to the three communities for onward continuation of the campaign in their various towns and villages.

In order to ascertain people's knowledge and perception about the colombus monkey and its conservation status and techniques, the views and opinions of stakeholders were sought through direct interviews. The stakeholders cut across people from all walks of life and included the NGOs, the representatives of the villages, and professionals.

According to Dimie Otobotekere that was with Mr. Powel who discovered this monkey, said: "I am one of the co-founders of the monkey. To me, this monkey is currently more important than the crude oil we are getting from Bayelsa because the crude oil will dry one day, but this particular monkey will benefit, not just us immently, but also generations to come, when conserved very well. Some countries like Tanzania don't even have a single oil, but the few things they have is what is building the economy of their country.

"This monkey is found only in Bayelsa, yet we are playing with it - and because it will soon go on extinction considering its current status, it must be conerved and preserved. I went to the villages where this monkeys are found with some white men that came in company of their families. They payed heavily for that visit. People are killing these monkeys because they do not know the importance of this monkey, but am awrae that a time would come when the villages would be very impressed with the amount of money the commmunity would be making out of the monkey ecotourism."

Comrade Mathew, a representative from Gbanraun village added that "Since we have this encounter with this UNDP, the first information is that we should preserve this monkey and it is one of the 25 primates that exixts in the world. At the community level, we have put a law that no individual shuld go the areas we have these monkeys."

Chief Kamela Godpower, the Chief Council Chairman of Apoi community gave accounts on some of the efforts made so far at the rural level to preserve the monkey, said "The red colombus monkey (epieni) is found in Apoi, Kokologbebe, and Gbanraun communities. A white man from Canada came about 20 years ago and discovered the monkey.

He said the monkey is only found in these three communities, and no where else in the whole world. They said we should preserve it because they would like to make it a tourist center. We have been going out for jingles to make sure that the timber, known as Abula, which the monkey feeds on should bw preserved equally. We have also been asking hunters not to kill it anymore because we risk not having these monkeys anywhere in the world, if not conserved and preserved now."

On his advice to the community he said "At the community level, we have started with meetings with stahkeholders like the timber dealers and the hunters. I am also a timebr dealer and I decided to become an apostle of the call to preserve this monkey"

Responding to the enquiry by the interviewer on whether they have plans to keep propagating this awareness at the rural areas where the killing of the monkeys are perpetrated most, the Director of Forestry Department in Bayelsa state, Mr. Festus Egba said, "staff of Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment had gone to the communities to sensitize the people by holding town-hall meetings. There, we made them understand that just like the Kangaroo is only found in Australia, this monkey is only found in Bayelsa, Nigeria of all the whole countries of the world. On the part of the communities, they have promised to keep to the government's plea and regulation to preserve the monkey."

On the econiomic value of the mokeys, he said "this monkey has the potential to attract ecotourism , for instance, someone from Canada came here and spent several months studied it, so it has spend their resources in feeding, accomadtion, among others."

Chief Dr. Okolo Bartholomew, the Executive Director of an NGO that also champions the conservation of the monkey, This for Tommorrow Initiative, said, "As a matter of fact, it is known that the monkey is endemic to Bayelsa state, and therefore can only be found here. This monkey is rapidly decreasing in number, and as such getting gradually extinct, so we are trying to get the aware of the need to conserve this monkey.

On the factors that constitute threats to the monkeys, he said, "exploitation of the forest, hunting, among others constitute major threats to the conservation of the monkey."

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