Colobus monkeys and coconuts: a study of perceived human-wildlife conflicts.
Approximately half of the remaining Zanzibar red colobus, Procolobus kirkii, one of Africa's most endangered primates, reside permanently outside protected areas, many within agricultural areas. Consequently, conservation of this endangered species is strongly dependent on the development of effective management plans that address the potential human-wildlife conflicts in these agricultural areas. There are a growing number of complaints about red colobus consumption of coconuts in the agricultural areas and requests by local farmers for compensation and/or removal of the colobus. Prior to taking actions that would hinder the conservation of this highly endangered species, it is necessary to quantify and compare the actual impact of the colobus on coconut harvest with that perceived by the farmers. Five experimental and two control plots were monitored to quantify the potential impact of red colobus on coconut crops and to assess the ecological variables that may influence this impact. It was found that red colobus consumption of coconuts was highest in areas of high red colobus density and low availability of alternative food resources. Despite these correlations, red colobus feeding on immature coconuts did not appear to limit coconut harvest. On the contrary, consumption of coconuts was found to be positively correlated with harvest. This correlation is probably due to a pruning effect. Based upon these findings that red colobus are having no significant negative impact on coconut harvest and are actually a source of tourist revenue to the region, it is recommend that no action be taken to remove them from the agricultural areas. This study illustrates the importance of scientific documentation of perceived human-wildlife conflicts.