Samango Monkey Project - Midlands, KZN

The spatial and behavioural ecology of Samango Monkey –ToPS species - populations in the Midlands

(Dargle Valley, uMngeni and Karkloof), KZN.

It has been identified that further research into the genetics, distribution and behavioural ecology of Samango Monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis - sub-species; Cercopithecus albogulariserythrarchus, C. a. labiatus, and Cercopithecus albogularis schwarzi) is needed.

The samango monkey is South Africa’s only exclusively forest dwelling primate. South African forests are characterised by a highly fragmented distribution and are the countries smallest - comprising about 0.1 % of the area (1 062 km2) - most fragmented and most vulnerable biome. Thus, the samango, being a forest restricted species, and a seed dispersing species, is listed as vulnerable in the Red Data Book of the Mammals of South Africa (2004).

We will conduct our research into the samango populations in Dargle Valley, and Karkloof Valley, KZN (Kwazulu Natal) - an area which has been rated amongst the highest in KZN in terms of irreplaceable biodiversity.

Further research will enable us to help the conservation and management of this species and help us to understand better the status of those habitats in which they survive.

Aims:

Determine the population size, location, genetics, and diet of samango monkeys in the Midlands, KZN.

Determine the manner in which human intervention has impacted on these areas.

Observe Samango monkey behaviour, troop structure and their behavioural relationship to other primate species.

Feed into other Samango Research projects in South Africa in order to get a broader perspective.

Educate the public on how to co-exist harmoniously with wild primates/all wildlife as well as the importance of a healthy biodiversity; our relationship to all wildlife and the environment on which we all depend.

Working With Us

We welcome all residents in the study areas - Karkloof, Dargle and surrounding areas - who are willing to contribute and participate in this study.

You can help by collecting important data on samango populations.
Records of sightings with date and time, photographs, recordings of vocalisations and GPS co-ordinates (if possible) will offer important information for the study.

Information can be forwarded to: samangomonkeymidlands@gmail.com

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Meeting the Samangos in Dargle


Trail camera footage provided by Kate Robinson. Samangos drinking from a water source a few metres in front of the indigenous forest in Dargle Valley. 


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Web of Life - Biodiversity

Irreplaceable Afromontane forests – where the threatened subspecies - Cercopithecus mitis labiatus resides, are found on moist southern slopes from the Cape to Limpopo. The forests are fragmented and vulnerable due to increased demands for forest resources, invaders and degradation. An important aspect of our ToPS species, samango monkey research is to gain more understanding of the relationship between the forest and samango monkey populations. 






Those of us in Africa are familiar with an old principle we call Ubuntu. The essence of this principle reminds us that we’re all interconnected 



Simply put, Ubuntu means: I am because you are

I was recently reminded of the web of life when coming across the copious amount of forest spider webs while the elusive samango monkeys called in the distance. 

If one strand is broken, the whole web is broken.  

I thought how principle needs to be extended to include the environment as it doesn’t apply solely to human society but is integral to the health of our planet we all rely on.  Everything that humans rely on for survival is taken from the earth. We exist as dependents on our planet, making the health of that environment crucial to our long term healthy survival.


Biodiversity is considered to be a measure of the health of all biological systems. It is the variation of taxonomic life forms that defines the health of the environment. Every species plays a role in contributing to a healthy environment – the web of life, including humans.
Over time, the variation has been dangerously reduced by one species – humans. Most of the species extinctions from 1000 AD to 2000 AD are due to human activities, in particular, plant and animal habitats. 

Factors contributing to loss of biodiversity are overpopulation, deforestation, pollution and global warming. 



How biodiversity directly affects us:

Enough biodiversity is needed to support the chains that humans rely on:
  • Food:  the variety of natural and organic plants found around the world feed animals and humans alike.

  • Beverages: the diversity of natural materials provide an abundance of ingredients for beverages.

  • Medicine. Most medicines are derived from natural ingredients, most specifically plants. Many antibiotics are also derived from living micro-organisms such as bacteria and fungi.

  • Building materials. Rubber, oil, certain types of fibres, dyes and adhesives all come from natural origins.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Secrets of the Forests

Secrets of the Forest

“......its drifting fragrance climbed up through my conscious mind as if suddenly the roots I had left behind cried out to me, the land I had lost with my childhood --- and I stopped, wounded by the wandering scent.” Pablo Neruda


The samango monkey (our research species)  being South Africa’s only exclusively forest dwelling primate shines a light on South African forests which are characterised by a highly fragmented distribution and are the countries smallest (comprising 0.1 % of the surface area - http://planet.botany.uwc.ac.za/nisl/bdc321/ekapa%20cape%20towns%20lowlands/biomes/forest.htm ), most fragmented and most vulnerable biome.

A day in the forest:





The following information has been sourced from SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute) http://pza.sanbi.org/vegetation/forests

The Role of Trees:

Trees quite literally form the foundations of many natural systems. They help to conserve soil and water, control avalanches, prevent desertification, protect coastal areas and stabilize sand dunes.

Forests are the most important repositories of terrestrial biological biodiversity, housing up to 90 per cent of known terrestrial species.

Forest animals have a vital role in forest ecology such as pollination, seed dispersal and germination.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide and are vital carbon sinks.

It is estimated that the world’s forests store 283 Gigatonnes of carbon in their biomass alone, and that carbon stored in forest biomass, deadwood, litter and soil together is roughly 50 per cent more than the carbon in the atmosphere.

The loss of natural forests around the world contributes more to global emissions each year than the transport sector.

The Forest Biome:

Forests are restricted to frost-free areas with mean annual rainfall of more than 525mm in the winter rainfall region and more than 725 mm rainfall in the summer rainfall region. They occur from sea level to over 2100m above sea level. Forests rarely burn, mainly due to the high humidity - under extremely hot and dry (berg wind) conditions fires may occur and destroy the forest structure.
Forests tend to occur in patches, few of which cover areas greater than 1 km 2, with areas greater than this only common along the Garden Route and Lowveld Escarpment. Even added together, forests cover less than 0.01% of southern Africa's surface area, making this the smallest biome on the subcontinent.
The canopy cover of forests is continuous, comprising mostly evergreen trees, and beneath it the vegetation is multi-layered. Herbaceous plants, particularly ferns, are only common in the montane forests, whereas lianas and epiphytes are common throughout. The ground layer is almost absent due to the dense shade. On the edges of the patches are distinctive communities, the so-called fringe and ecotonal communities, which are able to tolerate fire.
Some 649 woody and 636 herbaceous plant species are recorded from forests. However, forests are not floristically uniform. Three separate forest types are recognized in this account. Specialized forests that occur in small areas and very sporadically - such as mangrove, swamp and fringe forests are not separated from these three types.
Partly because of their rarity, their grandeur and their setting, forests are an important tourist attraction in South Africa. They have been exploited in the past for valuable timber, including Black Stinkwood Ocotea bullata and Outeniqua Yellowwood Podocarpus falcatus. Some forests were removed for the establishment of exotic plantations. A major plant invader of forests is Blackwood Acacia melanoxylon.
Forest conservation has two facets: the maintenance of components and critical processes in the forests - which requires the conservation of the large mammals and birds which disperse seeds and maintain gap processes which allow succession within the forests - and the maintenance of gene flow - which requires allowing seed dispensers and poillinators to move along the corridors between forest patches. Thus the proclamation of isolated stands of forests as reserves may be insufficient for their conservation. Sustainable use of forests may require that their fauna be effectively conserved! 

Some trees that occur at our study sites are: Podocarpus falcatus – Outeniqua Yellowwood,  Podocarpus latifolius – Real Yellowwood, Podocarpus henkelii – Henkel’s Yellowwood, Xymalos Monospora -  Lemonwood , Lanthoyxlum davyii – Knobwood,  Calodendrum capense – Cape Chestnut,  Ficus craterostoma – Forest Fig,  Halleria lucida  - Tree Fuschia,  Combretum krausii – Forest Bushwillow,  Crypiocarya myrtifolia – Myrtle Quince,  Kiggelaria Africana – Wild Peach,  Celtis Africana – White Stinkwood.
Common mid-strata trees include:  Tricalysia lanceolata – Jackal-coffee, Eugenia zuluensis – Paper-bark myrtle, Rinorea augustifolia –White violet-bush, Maytenus mossambicensisi – Black forest spike-thorn, Trimeria grandifoliai – Wild mulberry,  Ochna arborea – Cape Plane.

Lianes and scandents: Dalbergia abovata – Climbing Flat-bean,  Stropanthus speciosa – Poison rope,  Buddleja Pulchella – Red climbing sage,  Scutia myrtina – Cat-thorn,  Grewia occidentalis – Cross-berry,  Rhoicisus rhomboidea – Glossy forest grape. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Samango Monkey – ToPS species – Diaries no. 1


When we reach the end and are comprised of nothing more than dusty primate bones, all we will leave are the memories we plant now.

What is it about primates that moves you most, an old man asked.

It isn’t primates alone I told him. Each new species encountered, with its specific behaviour, and individual flavour ensures that the experience will be - at the very least – akin to the thrill of entering a new country with a distinctly unusual cultural social structure.

Primates however, due to their special relationship with humans, have additional lessons to offer.

Armed with the above philosophy, I headed towards the first Samango Monkey site on the 26th March on a wet, cloudy day.
Soon after I’d begun walking down the muddy forest path, I heard crashing through the canopy. Familiar with the movement of monkeys, I stopped to listen, but all went frustratingly silent. Walking on, I hoped they would reveal themselves further.





"Pyow – pyow"; a hidden samango monkey called in the distance identifying the species of monkey I’d been lucky to find. Having worked with vervet monkeys and baboons in the Tstitsikamma for two decades, the elusive and threatened samango represents a thrilling opportunity to build on all I’ve learnt from the past. More importantly, further observation of this species is needed to fully understand the genetics, distribution and behavioural ecology and how this impacts on the forests they are dependent on for survival.

Although I didn’t have a telephoto lens to capture some close ups, I tried to capture some of the movement and sounds around me while the samangos moved along their foraging path, ignoring my presence. It felt strange to be with monkeys who were not fearful of having a camera pointing at them, suggesting that unlike the vervet troops I had encountered in the past, this troop thankfully knew nothing about guns.

Follow us to keep updated on our samango monkey research which we are conducting on three separate sites where this elusive species resides. 



Sunday, March 12, 2017

Maps and our Study Sites




Samangos - taken with a camera trap at Site 1 - Karkloof




Karkloof Site 2
Karkloof Site 2

Karkloof Site1