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February 18, 2019

Killing monkeys to crown politicians

Colombus monkey
Colombus monkey

I was listening to news on one of the national TV channel. I had nothing better to do, and the TV was on and the remote was way away from me to change channels. So I thought I would go through the harrowing hour of boring political news and the ever present national crime scenes.

A mention of a name that only appears in zoological studies or archeology brought me back to life. Someone was talking about a Zinjathropus and Homo habilis. That is my line and I wanted to know what had brought such names in the news. I was listening.

Apparently, an old man who had been long dead, had come back to life in the form of a monkey. The person being interviewed did not seem to know exactly what he was talking about.

But he knew there were such names as zinjathropus in human evolution. He reckoned that the monkey was actually his long gone grandfather who had been reincarnated back to earth and had come visiting to see how the family was doing.

He even thought that the face of the monkey completely resembled members of his family and more so, his father. The family was so convinced that their grandfather was there, that they arranged to give the monkey food, fruits and drinks in order to appease to the spirits of the dead not to think of harming the family.

Those who had done anything wrong to the family were told to come home and apologise because the dead have come back to life, and they did not know the reason. The visitor to the village was an old black and white colobus monkey.

The reception was so special because the colobus monkey decided to appear on an area where superstition is almost the way of life. The man-like face of the colobus strengthened the belief of the people that it was a reincarnation.

But how did the colobus monkey which lives in the rain forest, finally find itself in the lakeside, miles away from home? Colobus monkeys are in a group of the old world monkeys with a family name of colubinae.

Most colubinae live in the Asian region but one member of the family, the colobus, is only found in Africa. They have a very beautiful black and white coat that has mane-like fur on the sides that act like a parachute when they jump from tree to tree.

They prefer living in dense forest and being highly territorial, they need a very large area where territories hardly overlap. In this case, fighting for territory take–over was almost unheard of for colobus monkeys, until man took over the living quarters of the monkeys.

Before the destruction of the environment which hosted the colobus, both red and black and white colobus monkeys lived in the same habitats. They would announce the edges of each family’s territory by sounds.

The male of each family would stand on the tallest tree in his territory and announce to all that lived in the forest that the area is taken. But as soon as territories became too small, habits had to change. Colobus monkeys are selective feeders.

They have a strict diet provided by certain trees in the forest. Depletion of such trees forces the monkeys to concentrate on a small area of the remaining forest cover. In such circumstances; monopolizing territories ensures survival of the species.

Fights for territory control and take overs are witnessed more often than before. In order to survive, families must be trimmed to the least possible number. Where we used to see a family of say 40 individuals, we now have less than ten members in a family.

Infanticide( killing of babies) was not known before and now is witnessed within groups that have been studied. The said monkey that visited the lake region could have been a male chased away from a family after attempting to kill the babies in the family to reduce competition.

Females are known to gang up against such males and either kill or chase them away. Such males are difficult to be accepted in any other family and have to fend for themselves away from the forest.

The colobus monkey has also been a victim of poaching. Their coats have been used by several tribes to make ceremonial dresses for their leaders.

So many years after the country positioned herself as a major player in the efforts to conserve wildlife, it is a shame to see our political leaders being crowned as elders of different communities, by wearing a crown and a gown made of the hide of a black and white colobus monkey.

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