Kakamega Forest, Kenya


Dr. Marina Cords has directed the Kakamega Monkey Project in the Kakamega Forest of western Kenya since 1979. Research in the Kakamega Forest has combined behavioral fieldwork with genetic and endocrinological techniques, undertaken in the laboratory, to gain a deeper understanding of primate behavior.

The Kakamega Forest lies 150 km west of the Rift Valley in Kenya at an altitude of 1600 m. It is the easternmost extension of the great Congo Basin forests which once stretched across the middle of Africa, but which have been fragmented in the last century by human activity. The forested area (178 square kilometers) includes a considerable variety of habitats, from relatively undisturbed rainforest, swamp and riverine forest, colonizing forest, secondary forest, various forestry plantations. There are also natural glades and clearings made for pit-sawing and charcoal burning. Closed canopy indigenous forest covers about 25% of the officially gazetted area. The forest is a high biodiversity area, including over 300 species of birds, and over 350 species of plants.  About 10 to 20 percent of the animal species in the forest are not found elsewhere in Kenya. Primates in the forest include blue monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis), redtailed monkeys (C. ascanius), de Brazza’s monkeys (C. neglectus), black and white colobus monkeys (Colobus guereza), olive baboons (Papio hamadryas anubis), and pottos (Periodicticus potto). Now and then we see a vervet (Chlorocebus aethiops). 

In recent years, research at Kakamega has focused on social behavior, reproduction and life history of blue monkeys. Earlier projects also examined social behavior and ecology of redtails, guerezas and de Brazza’s monkeys.