FEEDING TYPE: Herbivore
STATISTICS: Body length: 1.5 to2.5 ft; Tail length: 1 to 3 ft; Weight: 11 to 32 lbs
Colobus monkeys have slender bodies with long tails. A tubercle, or a suppressed but present thumb, is all that the colobus have, compared to most other primates. Extended nasal skin nearly reaches the mouth, and the nose looks like a bulb. Most of the body is black. The tail is white and tufted at the end. There is also a lateral line of longer white hair running from the neck to the tail. There are four types of black and white colobus monkeys.
Central and east Africa, Gambia to the Ivory Coast
Colobus monkeys are usually arboreal residents of deep forests.
Colobus monkeys have the unique adaptation of a multi-chambered stomach to aid in the digestion of all the plant material they consume. All black and white colobus monkeys eat the same leaves, but each subspecies eats a different leaf stage, thus preventing deforestation of the primary food source.
A colobus troop is a cohesive group, typically composed of a single adult male, three to four adult females, sub-adults, and an infant. The size of the troop ranges from three to 15.Multi-male troops have been observed as well as bachelor groups of males, but both of these groupings are believed to be temporary. Troops are highly social, and mutual handling of infants by members other that the mother is believed to maintain the cohesiveness of the group. Females spend a great deal of time in allogrooming, meaning grooming other individuals. Long-range communication is accomplished visually and vocally, primarily by the males jumping up and down in the trees, accompanied by a contagious roaring.
Little or no reproductive seasonality exists, and mating style is polygamous. Females mate with males for 12 to 24 hours, away from the group. Gestation lasts about six months, and babies are snowy white when born. Maturity is reached around four years for females and six years for males.
Prey to leopards, large eagles, and man
Predator to none
Mainly leaves, but also includes a small amount of fruits and flowers.
A system very similar to the ruminant digestive system of the cow has evolved in the leaf-eating monkeys of the subfamily Colobinae. Colobines are different from all other primates in the large size and complexity of the stomach, which parallels that of species of ruminants, kangaroos, and sloths.
Three species of tree comprise 69% of the total diet. The trees most eaten are deciduous and at the forest edge. Analyses of chemicals in the plants eaten found that the key factor in the determination of leaves eaten is the tannin content.
Numbers have declined drastically in the last 100 years due to fur trade in the 19th century, and subsequently by rapid human population growth and habitat destruction in Africa.
The IUCN Red Data Book does not consider this species of colobus to be endangered; however, this is not true of all populations within each species. As with all wild primate populations, the major threats to survival are habitat destruction, hunting and live capture for sale or trade. The hunting pressure on the colobus monkey has been immense. Skins are used for trimming coats and dresses, but are most commonly made into circular rugs or wall hangings. Many African people wear colobus skins for ornamentation, although the greatest demand has been from overseas.
Colobus monkeys are included under the auspices of the Old World Monkey Taxon Advisory Group of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
- These miraculous jumpers can jump distances of 50 feet between trees. The name “colobus” comes from the Greek word for mutilated, a reference to the animal's lack of a thumb. African legend calls the colobus monkey "the messenger of the gods" because at sunrise it sits silently as if in prayer.
- Colobus Monkey Fact Sheet, American Zoo and Aquarium Association Species Survival Plan Sheets. March 1994.
- Novak, Ronald M. Walker’s Mammals of the World. Volume I. Baltimore, Maryland. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1991
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. July 2008.
Published: December 2008