Adiaha Awa-Itam – Ibom’s Endangered yet Revered Monkey
The Ikot Uso Akpan community, in Itu Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State is blessed with the critically endangered Sclater’s monkey species, locally called “Adiaha Awa-Itam,” meaning the first daughter of Itam.
Would you kill or harm your first daughter? Definitely not! Maybe this is why it is a taboo to kill or eat any variety of monkeys in this community.
Adiaha Awa-Itam or Sclater’s guenon, also known as Sclater’s monkey and the Nigerian monkey, is an old-world monkey first described by the researcher, Reginald Innes Pocock in 1904 and named after Philip Sclater. This monkey is arboreal (lives primarily on trees) and it is diurnal (it is active during the day).
The primate lives in the forests of southern Nigeria, and was believed to be extinct until it was sighted again in 1988. This striking monkey is a smaller of the guenon species, and is believed to have a lifespan of about 20 years. Still, this monkey is a very endangered species.
Ikwat rainforest habitat remains the most extensive sacred forest preserved in Akwa Ibom state for Adiaha Awa-Itam (Sclater’s monkey). Ikot Uso Akpan Itam village is blessed with a waterfall that empties into a stream (Idim Afia). In this stream, you will find trees that provide shade to the water bodies and serve as habitat for the monkeys (Sclater’s guenon).
Whereas the Itam clan generally forbids the eating or killing of any variety of monkeys of any kind, it is only in Ikot Uso Akpan Itam village that you can find the most significant number of Sclater’s monkeys in Akwa Ibom.
Other states where the Sclater’s monkey can be found in small populations are Enugu, Imo, Abia and Cross River.