This stunning reserve situated in Bohoni town in the coastal area of Kenya is characterized by woodlands, savannah grasslands and riparian forests. The reserve, which is known to the local people as Mchelelo, was established in 1976 to protect the remaining forest along the Tana River and the most threatened primate species, which are; the Tana River Red Colobus and the Tana River Mangabey, both endemic to the forests of lower Tana River. These species are threatened by habitat loss and degradation, which has increased in recent years.
It is also one of the last remaining relics of the once enormous Central African Lowland rainforest, that became detached from the rest of the forest during the seismic eruptions that caused the formation of the Rift Valley. As a result, much of the reserve’s flora and fauna are unusual to East Africa and bear traces of ancient links to the Congo Basin forests of the Miocene period.
This wonderful river primate reserve is home to many wildlife species such as hartebeest on the Eastern banks, Mangebay, red-tailed colobus monkey, hippos, buffalos, Nile crocodiles, zebras, Masai giraffes, Oryx, lesser kudu, pythons, Sykes monkey and yellow baboons.
The rare and seriously endangered, Tana River red colobus is one of 14 separate species of colobus, distributed across Africa. A relatively large member of the colobus family, the Tana River red is an elusive and exclusively arboreal and diurnal monkey, which lives in the evergreen closed canopy of the gallery forest, where it subsists on young leaves, fruit and flowers. Living in groups of approximately ten individuals the Tana River red colobus actually appears predominantly grey. It has a black face, conspicuous whiskers and the only red colouration on its body is the slight rufous tinge on the top of its head.
One of four types of river mangabey found in Africa, the crested mangabey lives in the riverine forests that border the Tana River. With a yellow-brown back, white under parts and dark-grey hands, feet and tail, the crested mangabey gets its name from the conspicuous crest on its forehead. Diurnal, arboreal, but mostly terrestrial, the mangabey lives in large multi-male multi-female social groups of up to 60 animals and spends most of its time foraging for food low in the forest.
Be lucky to sight some rare exotic birds from over 260 species of birds like African open billed stork, bat hawk, golden pipit, pygmy falcon, African barren owlet, glossy starling, white-winged Apalis, open-billed stork, scaly babbler, red-tailed ant thrush, black-bellied starling and martial.
The forest also supports a rich array of mammals, a high number of reptiles and amphibian species, as well as a number of rare plants, some of which are unique to this area. visitors with a distinct fascination for primates and birdlife can look forward to a gala time here.
The riverine forests are home to the Pokomo people, who farm the banks of the river using mainly the ox-bows to grow rice immediately adjacent to the water; and maize further back. Large areas of the forest have, as a result, been felled to make way for further cultivation. The Pokomo also use the forest for timber and traditional medicines.