Comprehensive Conservation Profile of Tana Mangabeys

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Forests along 60 kilometers of the lower Tana River, Kenya, provide habitat for one of the world's top 25 most endangered primates, the Tana mangabey (Cercocebus galeritus). There is no current accurate estimate of the mangabey population, but a 1994 census estimated the population at 1,000–1,200. Their habitat has been severely degraded since then: visual estimates indicated that 30% of the forest area has been cleared and product use has increased in > 80% of forests surveyed. As the mean number of mangabey groups per forest is positively correlated with forest area and density of trees, this loss is damaging to the mangabey population. There has also been an increase in mangabey-human conflict, e.g., crop raiding, set traps, mangabeys chased by dogs. Mangabeys exhibit ecological flexibility, but behavioral data come from only a few mangabey groups. A new conservation approach is needed because past approaches, particularly the Tana River Primate National Reserve and a World Bank/Global Environment Facility Project, failed to protect the forests. The failure was mainly due to a disregard of the land-tenure issue within the Reserve, exclusion of local people from decision-making, and neglect of forests outside the reserve. Future actions must include community conservation programs and forest and corridor restoration. Research should focus on traditional management, status of primate groups in severely degraded forests, ecology of additional groups, and a population estimate to inform management as they implement more specific conservation strategies for the species.

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