25-08-2021 by Freddie del Curatolo
The battle of Diani Beach, one of the most famous coastal tourist destinations in Kenya, to preserve as much as possible the beauty of its nature, the ideal habitat for many endangered animal species, has an Italian heart and name.
It is that of Luciana Parazzi, who has been living for 50 years in the resort, which for years has been named one of the five most beautiful beaches in Africa.
Born 77 years ago in Ethiopia, she grew up between the Rift Valley and Uganda, and in the early 1970s chose the marine paradise of the south Kenyan coast, and has lived in symbiosis with its wonders ever since.
She has lived in symbiosis with its wonders ever since. So much so that when Diani itself began to be affected by tourist construction and, with it, by environmentally unfriendly development, Luciana was quick to respond.
Deforestation is one of the great havocs that modify the entire ecosystem of the coast," she admits to Malindikenya.net. "Not only is the landscape disfigured, but the lives of many species of animals on land and in the sea are endangered, as well as slowly modifying the climate and the life of the plants themselves.
One of the most dramatic aspects of the advent of mass tourism in the 1990s was the risk of extinction of the beautiful species of colobus monkeys, ancient guenons. In the Diani area, the subspecies 'colobus angolensis' has always had a home.
Threatened by tree felling and in search of food, the colobus monkeys are constantly on the move. Every day Luciana would find one hit by a car. Out of a need to protect this species, she founded Colobus Conservation 24 years ago. Since then, thanks to her tireless fieldwork of care, research, outreach and marketing, Luciana and her team, with the help of fortunate sponsors from around the world, first created a series of bridges along the main road that separates Diani's forested wilderness to allow the highly intelligent animals to cross it by air and save their own skins, and then set up a unique centre in the entire coastal area of Kenya.
The Colobus Conservation is not just a rescue centre for orphans, sick animals or those with other problems," explains Luciana, "but a study centre set up on the one hand to collect statistics and monitor the situation, and on the other to educate young people and schoolchildren in particular about respect for the environment and animal protection. We also have the possibility of hosting volunteers to join in the various activities of the centre or to carry out research".
At Colobus Conservation, just a stone's throw from the white beach celebrated by thousands of tourists every year, there is also a small hospital for primates, with an operating and recovery room, a "quarantine" area for convalescence or for cases that are difficult to manage, as well as recreational areas for the fantastic "guests" of the structure and a small native forest that reminds us that Diani Beach, at the time when Luciana Parazzi moved there, and in the millennia before, was uncontaminated and wonderfully wild.
"We have always worked in concert with the Kenya Wildlife Service," explains the founder, "but the salaries of 16 employees with various jobs, initiatives and emergencies depend entirely on donations. Like the tourism sector, we too have suffered greatly during this period of global restrictions, which has deprived us both of the many volunteers who support our work, and above all of those who help us with significant financial support, often after visiting the centre and realising the importance of our efforts".
Indeed, one cannot remain insensitive to the beauty and uniqueness of the colobuses, nor to the stories that Luciana tells during her visit to the Conservation Centre.
"The colobus and other primates are creatures that live and move in family groups," she explains. "Our job, after rescuing the specimens in difficulty, is to bring them back to their 'tribe'. We give them all the time they need to be ready for reintegration into their natural habitat. The current threats are those who poison them or drive them from their properties by any method. Fortunately we are not alone in our difficult battle against human insensitivity and selfishness: we have created a network of 'sentinels' who warn us of endangered colobuses, but also of other primates".
Luciana is indefatigable, as well as a veritable well of information, suggestions, memories and initiatives.
In her garden overlooking the ocean, adjacent to the centre, other animals also peep out: dikdik, dwarf antelopes and other foundlings that have the best of mothers, before returning to the savannah or the bush.
And that of the colobus is only the first of the Italian environmentalist's battles; soon we will tell you about her other creature, the sea turtle protection centre.
In the meantime, if you want to help the Colobus Conservation, you can "adopt" a primate by clicking here www.colobusconservation.org or you can call +254711479453 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org for other donations.
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