One of the greatest threats to endangered species is habitat loss. This is also the case with the Tana River mangabey. It is estimated that 50% of the original forest has been lost in the last 20 years. The Tana River area is losing its forests to agriculture. Felling of canopy trees for canoe construction, wild honey collection, and Palm fronds are being used for thatching and mats. Subcanopy trees are being used for housing poles and the topping of Phoenix reclinata for palm wine collection severely impacts the resources used by the species. Tana River mangabeys are also hunted and trapped in response to local crop damage. This trapping may occur and appears to be occurring at low levels within the forests.
The Tana River mangabey is listed as one of The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates. A 1994 census estimated the species population to be 1,000 to 1,200 individuals. It was listed under the U.S. as being endangered in 1970. The species was also listed as endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature and under CITES is listed under Appendix I. This species is listed on Class A of the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
The Tana River Primate Reserve was established in 1976 to protect the remaining forest along the Tana River and the endemic Tana River mangabey. The reserve protects an area of approximately 171 km² with 9.5 km² and 17.5 km² of that being forested area. The reserve contains about 56% of the Tana River mangabey groups, with approximately 44% living in forests outside of the reserve. 10% of the groups living in forests outside of the reserve are under the management of the Tana Delta Irrigation Project.
The objective of the Tana River Primate Reserve was to conserve the biodiversity within the Tana River area and protect the endangered Tana River mangabey. The conservation of this species is a high priority for primate conservation in Kenya. In 2007, the High Court in Kenya ruled the reserve was not abiding by the laws. This led to the forested areas which the mangabey inhabited losing their legal protection. With the poor management of the Tana Delta Irrigation Project, habitat loss outside the reserve also continues. The Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority, who is in charge of the project, are now in the process of expanding to establish a sugar cane plantation which will in turn remove more forested areas.
A five-year project in 1996 with the Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forest Department was funded by the World Bank/GEF. The projects goals were to enhance conservation and protection of these primates and forests. The project was poorly managed and was terminated after two years of implementation, leaving the wildlife service with the protection of these areas.
The Ishaqbin Conservancy is a community initiative in the Tana River Primate Reserve. Here communities are working with Kenya Wildlife Service to develop tourism side by side with conservation. Tourism development is believed to be important in that it will secure the conservation of the habitat and the species with the communities around the reserve. Tourism will benefit both the mangabey and local communities through economic development and a reduction in habitat loss. The conservancy will also help to form a buffer around the reserve which will help to reduce human impact inside the reserve.
Read more about this topic: Tana River Mangabey
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