Category Archives: De-brazza Monkeys

Secret valley, unique eco-system in the Ndoto’s!!

My Brother asked me to take his Son ‘Diggers’, up to the Milgis to learn abit about what the Milgis Trust is all about.. Its called Work Experience!!.. So we decided its time to investigate these ‘ new ‘ ?? Monkeys that the locals are talking about in the Ndotos..

So we set off with a few porters, and headed up into this amazing valley!.. It turned out to be a very very special Eco-system, of its own, with rare birds, special animals, incredibly beautiful butterflies and moths, and plants.. WE WERE SURROUNDED BY EXTRAORDINARILY BEAUTIFUL THINGS!!

The monkeys being the priority…. We set to the task!!

DSC01869.JPG Looking down into the valley, looking for any movement in the trees!!

DSC01844.JPG We searched high and low for these very clever monkeys, creeping through the undergrowth with out breaking a dry leaf, not easy! sitting quietly like the scout has many times, and waiting.. But could we see the Monkeys!.. DSC01842.JPG

About 10 years ago, while on safari in the Matthews Range, I saw some Monkeys in the Ngare Narok, that I shrugged off as the Samburu would say ‘ just another Monkey from the Forest ‘! But on return to camp thought to myself, yes they were different somehow… So looked them up in the book and mmmm Debrazza fitted them, but the Monkey experts all said.. NOT POSSIBLE!! It was only 5 years later that we managed to get these picture below!, and surprised every one!!Debrazza!.jpgDebrazza and babe.jpgThey were now definitely in the Matthews, so could be in the Ndotos as well, although we have spent alot of time looking.!!. But in our beautiful valley the Monkeys weren’t having it, all though Diggers saw the back of a couple racing off at high speed, but could not identify them.. But on the last day we got lucky and Pete saw a ‘pure’ Debrazza, sitting in a tree.. So having confirmed that.. What else did we see! On the first day as we were walking up the dry river, suddenly we come round the corner, and literally 4 meters in front of us is this most BEAUTIFUL BUSH PIG!!.. actually 3 of them!.. Unfortunately I did not think of photographing them till they had almost gone.. They were so close to start with and they did not run! But very very impressive animals..

DSC01849.JPG Two different ones.. The one below was huge..DSC01852.JPG

DSC01859.JPG While we were sitting WAITING!, for the monkeys there were 3 Narina Trogons flitting around, and all sorts of birds sounds I did not recognise.. Finally I managed to catch up with a couple of rareys!! Red capped Robin Chat.. just the most beautiful voice, and the other was the most impressive little flycatcher, blue-mantled crested fly catcher.. just exquisite!! Amoungst the usual chorus of birds one would expect here.. silvery cheeked hornbill, hartlaubs Touraco, crowned Eagle etc etc etc.. The list was ‘ ‘extra’!!, as one would say in French!!

Dino, we need your help.. Is this a moth or a butterfly ??They were all over the place!DSC01861.JPG

The normal views in every direction to die for, DSC01886.JPG



The Forest was just about to come alive, with Erithrina Melanacantha just about to flower..DSC01885.JPGDSC01924.JPG




Last but not least the Cycads.. They are endemic to this area, and incredibly beautiful.. These two small plants have got to defy the modern world, and grow into the size of the one below.. This is exactly what the Milgis Trust is all about!! LIVE AND LET LIVE!..

Diggers had the time of his life, every single moment was magic for him.. He could not believe what he was seeing most of the time!.. We hope to pass on the responsibility of the Trust to people like him..

He saw that there are big challenges as well.. While we were there..

DSC01985.JPG Upe was on fire!!..

Some beautiful women came to sing, DSC01834.JPG what they wanted was water in their school.. I told them in the meeting that followed..


Cut down to get at the Honey.. yes its true I’m afraid..DSC01961.JPG

DSC01879.JPG Cut down for livestock..

As we were driving home these women stopped us… They want help with marketing their goods, and they want water!!
Again the answer is don’t burn the Forest and then we can talk!.. DSC01995.JPGDSC02002.JPG Then finally As we were trying ‘to shoot out of the door’, this little child was brought in.. Blind, and has a cleft lip.. Diggers saw it all!!!!

Tomorrow we leave for the north, Pete will be walking his 65 kms on Friday!! GOOD LUCK PETE!!

The Milgis Trust needs more scouts to fulfill our mission…


This Elephant is sending a clear message!


The Milgis Trust has now been operating in the Samburu District for over five years. It has built a wonderful rapport with the tribal communities, chiefs and elders and it works hand in hand with the communities in regards to all its operations…


Milgis team.jpg

In just five short years the success of the Trust is visible in all our conservation objectives….

We now manage 22 full time scouts all employed from the local communities as well as 2 radio operators all of who work around the clock 365 days a year creating and sustaining an invaluable security network not only for the people but for the beautiful African wildlife that lives in the Milgis ecosystem.

Along with our scouts and manager we have gathered a Community Conservation Committee made up of chiefs and elders from all the surrounding villages,

meeting with the conservation committees.jpg

as well as an Eco-Screen Awareness Team that coordinates conservation screenings each month.

None of the projects we do, would be possible without the stable structure of the Milgis Trust Headquarters and the team that keep it running. Without our loyal team we would not be able to support the unforeseen situations that regularly arise in this remote and tough land, from emergency hospital transfers to elephant rescues.

Our radio station is always alive with communication and activities that need the assistance of one of our scouts who are always ready at hand 24/7.radios save so much time and money!.jpg

died from lack of water.jpg This warthog was found down a deep well, it jumped down too thirsty to think how it was going to get out… The scouts rescued it but it was too late.. It died after it had spent the whole night and most of the day down there…

There are five distinct areas to our core operations:

1. The Milgis Trust Radio Hill

radio hill.JPG

This is where our two radio operators live and work manning the radio waves and coordinating activities;


2. Our 22 Scouts and local Manager…..

keeping in touch with the local warriors.jpg

Each of whom works full time in their allocated conservation range equipped with radio, GPS and binoculars ; as well as patrolling which they all do on foot, they create monthly records and reports on communities, livestock, wildlife and land degradation, whilst actively promoting and conserving the areas they patrol.

logging important data..dedicated to keeping records.jpg

3. Project Coordination…. The trust now always has a conservation project on the go and heavily relies on the team at the headquarters to manage and coordinate all activities on site, be it the building of the school or the opening of an elephant kisima (water hole).

wells for Elephants.jpg When the water table goes too deep for the Elephants to dig then the scouts help out, and open the wells for them so that they can get in and out safely…

4. Awareness meetings & Campaigns… The Trust holds several monthly and quarterly meetings with the scouts, the Community Conservation Committee as well as with the KWS and other conservation conservancies in the area. On top of this we regularly integrate the surrounding communities and believe it important to incorporate them in all our plans by holding village meetings.

5. Contingency Operations… Every day we receive emergency calls or visitors, be it for illness, wildlife emergencies, poaching, deforestation or fires. We always need to have the resources available to be able to deal with the situation quickly and effectively. In the last five years alone we have had to coordinate five baby elephant rescues to the DSWT orphanage in Nairobi;

rescueing an infant elephant.jpg

The Milgis Trust Core Operations Team in just five years has built 1 primary, and 2 Nursery schools and provided drinking water to 3 schools and 2 centres. We have refurbished the local clinic, and employed a nurse…Amoungst many other small projects..


With the Milgis Trust’s gentle support the ecosystem is now regaining its balance. Already elephants are responding to the security presence provided by our scouts, which is exhibited by their increasingly relaxed behaviour and their expansion into parts of their former range . Our habitat which supports other key species including the Greater and Lesser kudu, Grevy’s Zebra, DeBrazza’s Monkey and many of the large predators including the endangered African Wild Dog, are rebuilding in numbers and thriving. A harmonious relationship is slowly being created between the wildlife and people of this area, and the communities are becoming excited and more accommodating to the creatures they once used to live in harmony with; thus reducing issues of habitat loss, competition for resources and human wildlife conflicts which was the main cause of wildlife deaths in the area.

All patrols are done by foot..

following and monitoring tracks..following and monitoring tracks.JPG

Scout patrolling the mountains.jpg On patrol in the mountains..

WILDLIFE HAS NO BORDERS, AND THE MILGIS TRUST NEEDS TO KEEP UP WITH ITS SUCCESS… WE CAN’T LET THE WILDLIFE DOWN! If there is any one who can help support just the core ops, or even better to support a new scout, you would be helping conserve one of the most AMAZINGLY SPECIAL PARTS OF THE WORLD…We need to increase our scouts, as well as support the existing ones … Read more about how you can support the trust by going on safari!!!!

If there is any one out there that is willing and able to help out, please contact me… [email protected]

Droughts come in ten year cycles, but each time its worse…

Why?…. I suppose its because there are more people on the world??….. IE More trying to live off less… In Northern Kenya we can expect a pretty bad drought every ten years, but its worse each time… And this time its no exception… I’ve just come back from another beautiful safari in the Matthews, we climbed to the top, but we could not avoid seeing the people and animals enduring hard times…. And doing more damage just to stay alive… As in the pictures below…

tree cut down for livestock.jpgvaluable tree cut to keep hungry livestock alive...jpg

Two valuable trees cut down for hungry livestock to try to keep them alive… But then what will they eat tomorrow?… We have so much work to do on this issue..

During our safari we saw plenty of Elephants, but every time one could not but think … Where is the nearest water?, for this beautiful herd of Elephants… Most of the wells we came across are over 20 feet deep, not even a chance for them, but we found flowing mountain water, thanks to the beautiful forest above on the slopes of the Matthews range, in the Ngare Narok Lugga, where the De Brazza monkeys frequent.. Indeed two herds of Elephants came into drink, at the same time, just behind our camp, plenty of trumpeting went on, which made our little camp with the camels all hobbled abit restless!!..

Strangler fig in Newtonia...jpg Huge tree in the Matthews range… Strangler fig, growing up a Newtonia..

Below is a positive note from a geologist who comes out to Kenya a lot… and he seems to be giving us some bright news!

Lets look at the forecasts at the Climate Prediction Centre and the
International Research Institute for Climate and Society. We are
currently moving into an El Nino year, slightly anomalous sea-surface
temperatures in the W Pacific, the El Nino/Southern Oscillation is
coupled with the Indian Ocean Dipole that influences E African
rainfall. They are not yet sure about the strength of the El Nino if
it comes later this year. El Nino means more intense short (oct-nov)
rains for most parts of E Africa. The prediction maps do not show any
difference in the rains from other years except for Oct-November where
there is a 40% probability of heavier rains in this time of the year.
Well, get an umbrella soon!!!

Our Milgis Trust website has been updated, If any of you have got time to read whats going on, it out lines all our plans and goals…

Finally a little note on how Pete is doing!! Hes walking!!… But the Doctor is still working on getting all the dead tissue, killed by the Snakes poison, out of his foot… What a palaver… but hes in good spirits, and looking forward to getting back to the bush…

Shocking pictures of forest destruction in the name of Research…

Reminds me of the kind of research the Japanese are doing on the whales!! Unbelievable that this researcher managed to get permission from the forestry dept. in a time when it is almost impossible to get any kind of permit in Kenya to cut trees, let alone in a protected forest……Whats worse is a university in America is sanctioning this research which involves cutting indigenous trees down in the Matthews forest…This all seems to me very strange… We have been in touch, with people in U.N.E.P., Division of early warning and assessment,who in turn contacted the Kenya forest service, who temporarily stopped the research!!, well the trees have already been cut!,and also with the head of department and his thesis adviser from the University…Below is some of the correspondence…

To Department of Biological Sciences..University of Illinois at Chicago..

Dear Sirs,

We are writing to you to bring your attention to Research work, being done by a student of yours in the Matthews range, Northern Kenya, which entails cutting alot of indigenous trees.. We would like to know if the university knows about it and if you sanction this destructive exercise…

We are writing from the Milgis Trust… Below is our Managers report on the issue, after he visited the sites, he also met with the community and tried to gather what ever information he could……

massive destruction.jpg



Plots cleared -9 and 11 more marked for clearing

Plots size approximate -60 m. diameter,

aprox no of trees cut down-234

Site visit

On visiting the site we saw the magnitude of the damage caused. Huge trees were felled and from the way the logs were cut it seemed there was some preparation for selling the logs. Majority were cut to similar sizes 2-3 feet long and arranged according to lengths. Some logs had numbers written on them.

Hundreds of plastic bands used for marking plots boundaries were all over the forest. This poses a danger to the wildlife in the area, who could feed on the bands.

Lots of painted pieces of wood used as pegs are also scattered all over the forest. This is a serious pollutant to the area and could cause contamination of the Ngeny river water once washed down stream when it rains. This also poses a danger to the users of the river water.

Our concern/worry

Matthews forest is one of the few remaining pristine forests in

, where human activities have not extended its destructive hand. This forest is the source of
the only permanent river in the area. Allowing such magnitude of destruction in the name of “research” poses a great danger to the survival of the communities that depend on it for water and to the wildlife that lives in the area, also rare species like the Debrazza monkeys. Also there are huge areas that have been burnt over the last few years, if he needs areas with out trees he could use these…

Moses Lesoloyia …Manager Milgis Trust

9 areas of aprox 60 meters diameter already cut...jpg

9/11/08 Thank you for your email. Over the next few days, I will talk to his thesis adviser, as well as other faculty on his thesis committee, about his research project and get back to you shortly. Head of dept..

Sent: Saturday, November 22, 2008 4:16 PM
Subject: Matthews research?

To..Head of dept, I am a little disappointed that we haven’t heard a word from any one from the university, on what is going on with this research in the Matthews range… This is now becoming a huge issue in Kenya, it has been brought up in parliament, and we are wondering why so many trees have to be cut down for research…There are hundreds of Americans supporting the Milgis trust, and other conservation projects to save these mountains, and there is an American university seemingly quite happy to let this go on… We are incredibly disappointed…Please get back to me what is going on and what this research is all about…

Dear Ms. Helen Douglas-Dufresne,
Thanks for the email. Since your first email of November 8th, and my reply, I have met twice with the researchers thesis adviser and one member of his thesis committee. The researchers adviser is in the process of writing a letter and has promised he would reply to you shortly.
Sincerely yours,

Sent: Monday, November 24, 2008 10:12 AM
Subject: Re: Matthews research
Thank you again for your reassuring reply… We are sorry about this.. But we are genuinely concerned, about this situation… Nobody can understand why L. needs to cut some of them huge trees down, and clear big patches of forest, for research in this day and age where ALL forests in Africa are threatened…There has been massive fires in the Matthews mountains over the years if he needs places where there are no trees can’t he go and find these areas… What on earth is he studying??…Its actually an embarrassment … We are working really hard to save these forests, and this guy comes and does this…Hundreds of thousands of Nomadic people, and wildlife, rely on the water that flows out of these forests…the Nugent being one of the most important rivers flowing out of the Matthews…
There seems to have been large amounts of money available and or handed out to various people… Really and truly what is the motive.?.. yours Helen
To be continued tomorrow… with more correspondence from the thesis adviser..and more photos..