Living Harmoniously With Monkeys

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Whether it is feeding, holding, petting or playing with monkeys, our interaction with these likeable primates has largely increased especially in urban cities and parks. The situation is not different at Nairobi’s City Park which is among the few places in Nairobi teeming with troops of wild Sykes (Kima) and Vervet (Tumbili) monkeys.

There have been mixed reactions over the years as to the implications of these close interactions both to the park visitors and the monkeys. At a Wide Stakeholder Forum held in 2016, a section of the over 200 participants suggested managing the monkey population through relocation, culling and managing the waste from the adjacent City Park Market where the monkeys get easy picks as well as restricting feeding of the monkey by visitors and park users.

Peter Fundi, a scientist from the Institute of Primate Research has extensively studied the movements, nature and behavioral characteristics of Sykes, Vervet and Colobus monkeys at Karura Forest and its environs including City Park, Parklands and Muthaiga area.

He recently held a talk at City Park that brought together City Park members of staff, gardeners, camera men and hawkers/vendors operating within City Park and at the adjacent fruit and vegetable market. The interactive talk focused on understanding the hazards and implications of close and unmonitored forms of contact with these primates.

So why shouldn’t we feed these cute monkeys?

  1. They become LAZY!! They no longer forage for food and become habituated to this dependence on snacks from visitors. The peanuts, fruits and maize also happen to be very nutritious compared to what the monkeys would get when foraging.
  2. They become a NUISANCE and PESTS as opposed to their natural, adorable, playful and timid nature. They might even snatch and steal food from visitor’s vehicles, bags and picnic baskets!
  3. They become AGGRESSIVE and may even confront and attack in an attempt of getting they are used to getting. A bacteria-laden bite from a monkey could be fatal.
  4. Risk of DISEASES and INFECTIONS!! Genetic studies have already shown how shockingly identical we are with monkeys. Some diseases that infect and affect humans similarly affect monkeys – and worse still, they might even be more resistant to these diseases! Close contact with them through feeding, petting and holding may lead to bacterial and airborne diseases and infections.

by Benard Koros

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