Ugandan Red Colobus, Procolobus tephrosceles

The Ugandan red colobus (Procolobus tephrosceles) is a primate native to Africa. It is an Old World monkey that was not classified as its own species until 2001. Its range includes five areas of Uganda and Tanzania that equal 621.3 miles. These areas include the edge of Lake Victoria in Tanzania and Kibale National Park in Uganda, where the largest population is thought to be located. The preferred habitat of this monkey depends on its location, and it some areas, sustainable habitat is limited due to fragmentation.

There has been some confusion on the taxonomy of the Ugandan red colobus. It was once thought to be a subspecies of P. badius as well as a subspecies of P. foai. As of 2001, it became a distinct species, but it is thought that it may be better classified as a subspecies of P. rufomitratus.

The Ugandan red colobus has various colors throughout its fur. The dorsal fur is typically black, grey, or red in color while the sides and limbs are lighter grey in color. The face is typically dark gray or black in adults and entirely black in young individuals. The crowns of the head are typically red in color. The light brown tails are extremely long and aid in balance. The feet also aid in movement by being large. An adult female can weigh 15.4 pounds while males weigh and average of 23.1 pounds.

Groups of the Ugandan red colobus can hold many males and females, averaging a number of 40 individuals per group. The number of monkeys within a group varies depending on the number of males, and males will not typically leave their group. Females are drawn to groups with a larger number of males, and are able to move between groups relatively easily. Although females outnumber males within each group, males are dominant. Social grooming is important in each group, and females will take most of the grooming responsibility and groom males, females, and young.

The Ugandan red colobus will often split into smaller groups to forage, called fission-fusion groups. This occurs when food is not abundant and forests are fragmented, so food availability is not as decreased as when the larger main group forages together. The diet of this species consists of leaves, particularly young leaves or stems of mature leaves. There is no particular preference for tree types, although it has been found that different populations will eat more of a certain type of leaf than others will. Seeds, bark, and fruits may also be consumed for extra nutrients.

The Ugandan red colobus is able to mate year round, although many births occur during the rainy season when new leaves and shoots are growing. Both males and females will initiate mating and competing males or young whose mothers are breeding may interrupt them. Males are able to breed at four years of age while females can breed between the ages of four and five.

In many areas of its range, the Ugandan red colobus will associate with other species of primates. In parts of Kibale National Park, it has been spotted associating with red-tailed monkey. It has also been seen associating with the blue monkey, the grey-cheeked mangabey, and the mantled guereza. It is thought that these associations occur due to the increased protection they provide.

The main predators of the Ugandan red colobus are the crowned eagle and the common chimpanzee. In Kibale National Park, the common chimpanzee will mainly hunt this colobus instead of the many other primates that inhabit the area, with as much as 12 percent falling prey to the chimpanzee in Ngogo. One defense mechanism that the groups of Ugandan red colobi use is to group together while the males attempt to deter the predator.

Populations of the Ugandan red colobus are highly fragmented, and this decreases genetic diversity and therefore mating. Habitat loss and natural hunting are also main threats to this species, and it is thought that there are only 17,000 viable individuals left in the wild. Human hunting has never been a major threat, but in Kibale, Uganda hunting of any primate was made illegal in the 1960’s. The Ugandan red colobus has been given a conservation status of “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List.

Image Caption: Ugandan Red Colobus’s grooming in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Credit: Duncan/Wikipedia(CC BY-SA 2.0)