Red Colobus Monkeys


Red Colobus Monkeys Essay, Research Paper

Environmental Science Term Project

Colobus Monkeys (Introduction)

The colobus monkey is a medium-sized monkey that lives in the western, central and eastern regions of Africa. The colobus weight is between 12-32 lbs. and is 18-27 long. There are eight species of colobus monkeys that include many sub-species of the animal. Of which include the black-and-white colobus monkey (colobus guereza) and the red colobus monkey (piliocolobus).

The colobus live in troops of various sizes with no true order of power. A strong male, though, acts as the lead animal in the group. The Zanzibar Red Colobus have one of the more intricate systems of primates. They live in large groups of about 30 with around six males in each group. The groups often split up into smaller packs and then reunite at a later time. This is not a social system regularly seen among these animals.

What is probably the most intriguing fact is that the colobus does not have any thumbs. Instead of having the extra digit, they have a small bump where it should be. This is the reason that it was given the name colobus, which in Greek means, mutilated one. The lack of a thumb is probably an adaptation so that the colobus is able to move quickly from tree to tree. To make up for their lack of thumbs, the colobus shapes the rest of its fingers into a powerful hook to grab onto trees more surely. The colobus also makes up for its deficiency by having powerful hind legs, which give them their incredible leaping ability.

Other characteristics of the colobus monkey are the callouses on its backside. The callouses allow the animals to sit for long periods of time on branches without any discomfort. The colobus stomach is also enlarged and separated into compartments with special fermenting bacteria in order to ferment leaves. Although their stomach is especially designed for eating leaves, the colobus will also occasionally eat flowers, twigs, buds, seeds and shoots. Fruit makes up a third of their diet as well. Some colobuses also eat charcoal, which may allow the monkeys to eat potentially harmful foods such as foods that aren t native to Africa, which are brought by the humans.

The Plight of the Colobus Monkey

Although, most colobuses aren t currently listed as endangered, its numbers have been dropping dramatically over the years. This is mainly because of the deforestation of their homeland. In Diani, Kenya over 75 percent of the forest has been destroyed, which not only destroyed the monkeys habitat but their natural sources of food, as well. We have used these trees for farming, construction and fuel, but in the process have decimated the homeland of these creatures of the wild.

Is the destruction of one creature s home worth providing another s satisfaction? This is a matter of opinion, but I personally think that it is preposterous to drive an animal to near-extinction numbers just to erect an eyesore in the forests. Although, this might be necessary, we must provide the monkeys with something to compensate for their great losses. Perhaps establishing a sanctuary in the remaining forest and growing more of their natural food sources in the forests.

But many believe that it isn t just the deforestation of Africa that has reduced the colobus numbers. They also think that the ignorance of people have helped kill off the colobus monkey. That is the only possible reason that the numbers of automobile-related colobus deaths have risen to such an unusually high rate.

The colobuses are at risk whenever they cross roads because of their clumsiness while on the ground. They have been compared to squirrels because of their bounding manner. Another problem is the unpredictability of the animals while crossing the roads. Many have noticed that while crossing, only the leader of his pack looks before crossing. After he crosses, then the other colobuses simply run across without paying much heed to the oncoming motorist.

Much must be done to educate the drivers of these cars because we can t teach the animals how to cross, but we can teach these motorists how to drive. The people of Kenya have erected many bridges, or colobridges, for the monkeys to cross over to each side of the road. They have been erected at specific crossing points, and spots where accidents occur the most. But, although many packs use them, many also do not use them because of the fact that we cannot force the monkeys to change their usual way of life, or their usual routes.

We cannot blame motorists alone for the declining numbers of the colobus. We must also look at the people that are decimating the forests where the colobus live. We must convince these people that creating tourists traps all around Africa is not worth destroying the natural wonders in Africa s forests.

The colobus are also being killed by hunters accidentally in traps that are illegally set to catch antelopes. One activist actually saw two colobus monkeys in her garden with one arm missing on each of them. Other threats to the cause, main roads, which provide greater difficulty for animals to cross. People are also dumping their garbage in the forests, which the animals are eating. This causes illness among the monkeys, as well as a dependency on humans to provide them with their food. The colobus are also being hunted for their skins, which are used in traditional tribal dances.

All the problems, however, cannot be blamed on people. Another major problem is the incredibly low reproductive rate of these animals. Females only have one infant every two to three years. The colobus is also noisy and slow, which make them easier prey for the hunters.

Although the number of endangered colobuses aren t that great, they are still in need of our help. The red colobus superspecies are listed as one of the ten most endangered monkeys in Africa. The Bioko subspecies is one of the most endangered of them all at around 10,000. The Zanzibar red colobus are limited too at around 2,000. The black colobus is also on the ten most endangered animals list in Africa. They are probably the most sensitive to habitat loss than any other monkey.


There is a group in Kenya whose main cause is to help save the colobus monkey. They are called the Wakuluzu Friends of the Colobus, which was recently formed in 1996. One man, Mr. Van Velzen has financed the group for all expenses, which include vehicles, equipment and funds. But, the group has set up a trust to better their involvement in the protection of the colobus monkey and their habitat. The existing trustees are all professionals in their own respective fields with jobs of their own to support.

The group plans on starting a environmental awareness campaign, to better educate the people of Africa that the deforestation of Africa is not a worthy cause to support. They also plan on coating high voltage electrical cables to prevent any animals from being electrocuted by them. They also are trying to lower the speed limit on the roads to further prevent the killing of the monkeys while crossing the roads. They will also do further research for the cause and take more censuses to make sure that the numbers don t keep on dwindling. They are also active in the conservation of Africa s forests.

To be able to help the Friends of the Colobus Trust email:

In Zanzibar, there is the Jozani Forest Reserve, which is home to most of the 2,000 remaining Zanzibar red colobus monkey.

There are also many other reserves in Africa to help save the colobus as well as many other animals. Most notably, the Bioko Reserve and Gabon s Lope Reserve.


National Geographic: vol. 194, no. 5

Zanzibar s Endangered Red Colobus Monkeys by Tom Struhsaker p. 72-81

National Geographic: vol. 195, no. 6

Wildlife by Canon

National Geographic: vol. 195, no. 6

Traffic Turns Monkeys into Roadkill by Boris Weintraub

Threatened Primates of Africa: The IUCN Red Data Book by Lee, Thornback and Bennett

Published by Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge Publishing

Save the Colobus Monkey in Diani, Kenya by Paula Kahimbu

Species Data Sheet: Colobus Monkey from the Lincoln Park Zoo

Species Data Sheet: Colobus Monkey from the Oregon Zoo

Amazing Animals: Colobus

Bioko Primate Protection Program

Prayers for a Primate by Zera Weaber: Colobus Monkey

On Tour in Africa Tanga


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