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Eastern red colobus

Procolobus rufomitratus


Red Colobus Monkeys are restricted to humid forests, but the Zanzibar red colobus prefers coastal thickets and scrub. Red colobuses are primarily arboreal and are highly sensitive to hunting and habitat destruction, and have been referred to as probably the most threatened taxonomic group of primates in Africa. The diet of red colobus monkeys consists mainly of young leaves, flowers, and unripe fruit.They are also known to eat charcoal or clay to help combat the cyanide some leaves may contain. This medicinal cure for the plants they eat appears to be passed on from mother to child. However, their stomachs are able to digest some toxic plants that other primates cannot. Red colobus monkeys are extraordinarily adapted to their entirely vegetarian and widely varied diet. They have special salivary glands, which are larger and produce more specialized saliva to help facilitate the breakdown of leaves before they even reaches their digestive tract. The stomach of the red colobus is also sacculated into four chambers (similar to unrelated ungulates) and larger than those of other monkeys of a comparative size. This allows for longer digestion, so that most nutrients can be gleaned from the relatively low nutrient food

Fun Facts

Groups often establish a dominance hierarchy determined by aggressive behavior. Food, grooming, and sexual partners are distributed amongst higher-ranking individuals initially, followed by lower-ranking individuals. They live in large troops which can number up to 80 individuals, the average being somewhere around 20 to 40 monkeys. These groups tend to have more females than males at a 2:1 ratio. The few male monkeys in the troop usually stay with their original group, but the females have a tendency to move together in small numbers, probably in close familial relationships, between troops. Red colobus monkeys have overlapping ranges with other troops. Interactions between troops can be either tense, though passive, or violent, with one troop trying to supplant the other.

These fights are usually based on a number of factors including physical condition, fighting ability, and the number of males in the opposing troop. Females are also known to take part in these competitions for dominance, and often fight together. Mother-infant bonds among the red colobus are quite strong, as they are with most primates. The mothers are usually reluctant to allow other females from their troop to carry their babies. This may be owing to the fact that many of the females in a troop are not related as they move between groups quite frequently. Another remarkable behavior occurs when red colobus monkeys reach their restless and somewhat nomadic adolescence.

This period is when the young monkeys leave their natal troops and look for another troop to join. This is not easy, as most troops are very suspicious and can get deadly when new monkeys try to join. The red colobus monkeys have adapted their behavior by joining troops of green monkeys that are near the potential red colobus troops that they wish to join, and living amongst them in order to spy on their potential new families. In one notable case, an adolescent male red colobus spent two years with a green monkey troop in order to spy in safety on a prospective troop in this manner.


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