Donor and former Zoo Commission President, Shelby Kaplan Sloan established the Sloan Animal Keeper Advanced Studies Fund in 2003 to provide keepers with opportunities for hands-on field experiences with particular animals. Upon completing their fieldwork, they share their experiences and insights with the staff and the animals at the Zoo.
Recipient of a 2010 Sloan Animal Keepers Advanced Studies grant, Animal Keeper Colleen Rae embarked on a month-long stay in Kenya, two weeks of which she spent studying colobus monkey ecology, monitoring feeding behavior, conducting primate censuses, and surveying forest distribution at the Colobus Trust Conservation Organization wildlife rehabilitation center.
African wildlife is exotic to those of us living in North America, but the challenges that creatures such as guenons, bush babies, and colobus monkeys face in their home range are the same faced by endangered species here at home: habitat loss and the hazards of co-existing with an expanding human population. Colobus Trust not only ministers to its namesake species, but any wildlife in distress. The most common injuries Colleen saw during her stay were from encounters with cars, poisons, and electrical wires.
“I knew that electrocution of monkeys was a problem in the area, however, I never dreamt that in my short two-week stay I would witness seven cases,” she says. Colobus Trust is working tirelessly to attack the problem. In addition to vigilantly trimming trees near power lines and working with local agencies to insulate as many cables as possible, they have also built “colobridges” that help reduce roadway casualties in much the same way that the wildlife underpasses installed on some highways in California have enabled wildlife to cross safely. The nonprofit relies on donations from the public to fund these efforts.
“At the Zoo, I work with many African primate species including black and white Guereza colobus,” Colleen explains. “I wanted to volunteer at the Colobus Trust to understand the plight of the closely related black and white Angolan colobus. Conservation is something that I care about deeply and I hope to bring more international attention to the Colobus Trust. Arriving in Africa was a surreal experience and seeing the colobus in the wild was incredibly exciting.”