Gallery forests discovered in the lower Tana River, Kenya, seem to be remainders of an earlier uninterrupted forest that stretched from Central Africa to East Africa approximately 25,000 years ago. The forests are part of the East African Coastal Forests Biodiversity Hot spot; hence, are immensely valuable. They are the only environment for two rare primate species; Tana River red colobus, Procolobus rufomitratus, and Tana River mangabey, Cercocebus galeritus. These two species occupy the forests near a 60-km stretch of the lower Tana River from Nkanjonja to Mitapani. All of these forests are tiny, varying in size from <1 ha to c.500 ha. Six additional nonhuman primates? species are located in this region. Nevertheless, the Tana River red colobus and Tana River mangabey are reliant on the forest, and are accountable for the majority of the primate biomass in these forests.
The Tana River red colobus and the Tana River mangabey are both seriously endangered by forest loss and destruction instigated by an increasing human population. Forest is vacant primarily for agriculture; in the last 20 years approximately 50% of the unique forest has been lost. Furthermore, people use the left over forest for supplies to makes houses and canoes, and for more non-timber forest goods. Therefore, the existing population of the Tana River red colobus is fewer than 1,000 creatures and diminishing further, whilst the population of the Tana River mangabey is not that much greater and decreasing too. Moreover, it has lately been discovered that the forest loss and destruction triggers excessive levels of parasitism in these two primates (Mbora and McPeek 2009). The impact of this on the position of these two populations is not known at present.
The continued existence of the two endemic Tana River primates seems extremely depressing. In 2007, the High Court of Kenya governed that the Tana River Primate National Reserve (TRPNR), where 13 km2 of forest were safeguarded, was not founded in agreement with the law. Hence, the TRPNR must, be degazzetted, meaning that not a single creature of the habitat of the Tana River red colobus and Tana River mangabey is lawfully guarded. Moreover, environment loss external to the TRPNR has been intensified because of the unsuccessful TanaDelta Irrigation Project?s (TDIP) rice-growing scheme (underneath the management of the Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority [TARDA], with funding from Japan International Cooperation Agency [JICA]) to safeguard forest areas on their territory. At the moment, TARDA is growing its endeavours in the area by launching a 110 km2 sugar cane plantation. As well, an extra 500 km2 of land inside and around the delta are reserved for the expansion of sugarcane plantations by Mat International Sugar Limited. Consequently, this will result in a massive arrival of people and a rise in the need for forest resources.
Strangely, regardless of the dreadful state of affairs of Tana River red colobus and the species being on the list of The World?s 25 Most Endangered Primates since 2002, no conservation organisation is working in the forests of the lower Tana River. In 1996, a five-year Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Kenya Forest Department project, funded by the World Bank/GEF, started to improve conservation and safety of the primates and forests. Regrettably, this hypothetically vital project was ended early because of bad project management. The KWS was left with the sole accountability for the conservation and defence of the Tana River?s forests and primates.
Regardless the dilemmas emphasised above, the Tana River circumstance is not despondent. The independent workers have sustained a rather badly funded research project in the area over the last few years; hence, they have been able to keep an eye on ground expansion. Additionally, in 2005, in excess of 250 amilies who farmed within the TRPNR were willingly located somewhere else to Kipini - approximately 90 km away- by the KWS. Currently, there seems to be an increasing interest for forest and biodiversity conservation amongst indigenous people. For example, various local leaders have conveyed a wish to transform the current degazetted TRPNR into a community wildlife sanctuary. Nevertheless, there is requirement for robust help and reassurance from conservation organizations for a community-based conservation effort.