Western Red Colobus (Procolobus badius)
The red colobus is a species of Old World monkey that can be found in West African forests. Old world monkeys, or Cercopithecidae, are a group of primates that originated in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Red colobus are grey to black with bright red-orange undersides, cheeks, and lower half of limbs. Colobus is derived from the Greek word "Colobe" which means "cripple". This is due to the fact that they are lacking thumbs. However this is an advantage for this arboreal species as it allows them to swing from branch to branch with more ease. Colobus monkeys are known to utilize a tree branch like a trampoline and jump up and down on a branch in order to get liftoff for a leap of as much as 50 feet! They have very long tails (around 24 inches) to help them balance on branches. Males average around 23 inches in length and weigh 18.5 pounds, while females are only slightly smaller.
The red colobus is found throughout Central and Western Africa. These arboreal primates live in mature moist forests, rainforests, and gallery forests which are located alongside streams or rivers. They are diurnal (most active during the day) and can be found in all levels of the forest canopy and rarely descend to the ground. This communal species is usually found in large groups of 20 to 80 individuals, however they break off into smaller subgroups when foraging for food. They are very agile and move through the canopy on all fours and by brachiation – swinging from branch to branch with only their arms.
As herbivores the red colobus monkey feeds mainly on leaves. While they prefer tender young leaves and shoots, their complex stomachs allow them to digest mature or toxic foliage that other monkeys can not. They also eat flowers and unripe fruits. Once ripe, fruit contains a lot of sugar which is harder for the monkey to digest.
Red colobus monkeys have both natural and human-induced threats to their existence. Leopards and large eagles are two of their natural predators. They are an endangered species due to being hunted for their meat, as well as habitat loss and degradation from agriculture, logging, and human settlement.
- Jukofsky, Diane. Encyclopedia of Rainforests. Connecticut: Oryx Press, 2002.
- "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species," IUCN website, 2010.
- American Wildlife Foundation: www.awf.org/content/wildlife/detail/colobusmonkey
- Photo by Tom Hadley