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RWANDA: An Encounter with the World’s Endangered Golden Monkey Species

Golden Monkeys feed on bamboo leaves, branchlets, shrubs but mostly on fruits. (Photos by Paul Mugume / Chimpreports)

Rwanda Tourism sector boasts of enormous features that interest tourists including a wide variety of birds, find http://cms.prometeusz.info/components/com_k2/models/itemlist.php the world’s most endangered animal species including Golden Monkeys, http://challengeidee.fr/wp-includes/post-formats.php Gorillas, and some species of antelopes among others.

Whereas the country is among the mostly famous amongst tourists for gorilla tracking, Golden Monkeys are also a special animal species that attracts scientists, conservationists and tourists because of their amazing way of life and the fact that they were listed as endangered.

The Golden Monkey is a species of Old World monkey which was previously suspected to be a sub species of the Blue Monkey due to their striking resemblance although the former has a golden-orange patch on the upper flanks and back.

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They are restricted to highland forest, especially near bamboo and currently, they can be traced in the volcanic mountains of Virunga, Sabyinyo in Rwanda, Mgahinga in Uganda, and Kahuzi Biega in North Eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo.

At the foot of the mountain, the area is covered by plantations whic are thought to be bringing about human-wildlife conflict

At the foot of the mountain, the area is covered by plantations whic are thought to be bringing about human-wildlife conflict

In Rwanda, the golden monkeys are found in Volcanoes National Park, in the northern district of Musanze. The park is about 4 hours away from Kigali.

It’s a Wednesday morning, I set off from Rwanda’s capital Kigali to Volcanoes National Park. First stop was the park headquarters where we got a briefing, a cup of hot coffee, a walking stick and a tour guide.

At around 10:30 am, we hit the forest on the slopes of Mt. Sabyinyo where the monkeys could be found. Being my first time, I could not stop asking questions.

A view of Mt. Muhabura from Mt. Sabyinyo

A view of Mt. Muhabura from Mt. Sabyinyo

Ms Geraldine Umunyurwa, our tour guide, revealed that the monkeys are a friendly species of animals that move in groups of about 30 individuals, with the biggest group going up to 62.

“Groups which are found in higher elevation areas tend to be so small than those found in low elevation areas. They usually sleep in groups of 4 individuals at the top of bamboo trees, feed near their sleeping areas and return to the same place to rest in the evening,” she explained.

Asked about which foods the monkeys feed on, she said that they opportunistic feeders, whose diet is influenced by availability of fruit.

Golden Monkeys were listed as endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.

Golden Monkeys were listed as endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.

“The golden monkeys’ diet consists of young bamboo leaves, fruits, bamboo, bamboo shoots, invertebrates, flowers, and shrubs. However, during seasons where ripe fruit is available, the golden monkey tends to feed more on fruit.”

Before you start hiking, a group of park warders go ahead of you to establish their exact locations and they stay in close communication with the tour guide, to tell her when they finally find the animals.

After climbing the mountain for about 2 hours, we finally get the communication that the monkeys have been found. Our guide orders us to leave everything we had carried, about 60 metres away from where the monkeys were located.

Tourists enter the forest to trek monkeys. The lower end of Mt. Sabinyo is covered in bamboo while the upper end is covered in different tree species

Tourists enter the forest to trek monkeys. The lower end of Mt. Sabinyo is covered in bamboo while the upper end is covered in different tree species

“They don’t need to smell any food that you may have carried in your bag or anything that deviates from their normal way of life,” she explained adding that we should drop our walking sticks too.

“Poachers used to harass the monkeys with sticks, so if they see you holding sticks, they will take you for the poachers and run away with stress.”

Playful as they are, they were roaming around in bamboo branches, jumping from one tree to another, feeding on bamboo leaves and posing for photos as journalists and tourists drew closer to them.

Golden monkeys have a golden-orange patch on the upper flanks and back.

Golden monkeys have a golden-orange patch on the upper flanks and back.

Humans are only allowed one hour to be with the monkeys after which they are supposed to leave. Ms. Umunyurwa explained that this is to enable them live freely without too much interruption.

She also said that the monkeys move in between areas depending on the season.

“During the season where ripe fruit is available they will remain in those areas. When the rainy season begins this causes bamboo shooting to occur and the golden monkeys are found more in these areas.”

She said the continuous movement is why they keep migrating between the three countries of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda.

They undergo a gestation period of 5months although not much is known about their sex life.

The tour guide, Geraldine Umunyurwa gives guidelines before entering the forest

The tour guide, Geraldine Umunyurwa gives guidelines before entering the forest

Human Wildlife Conflict

The park is surrounded by a stone fence which can easily be jumped over by the monkeys. Humans cultivate up to the foot of the mountain where the park starts, a situation that is thought to elevate human-wildlife conflicts.

Umunyurwa however said that the community is sensitized and is actively involved in conservation activities hence reducing the cases of conflict.

“The revenue sharing policy helps us cultivate a better relationship with the communities around the national parks. They understand the importance of conservation and are actively involved in it. The government invests 5 percent of tourism revenue to community projects but also goes ahead to compensate individuals whose crops and plantations have been damaged by the animals.”

Asked about the issue of poaching, Umunyurwa said that the poachers are always interested in buffaloes and elephants although monkeys are also killed in traps.

She however noted that a number of trackers have been deployed in the park to protect the animals from poachers. The park has about 100 trackers who keep in close communication through radios.

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