Colobus Monkey

The Facts

  • Genus/Species: Colobus guereza
  • ConservationStatus: Endangered
  • Location: Equatorial Africa, ranging from Eastern Nigeria to Tanzania


Colobus Monkey
Colobus Monkey
Colobus Monkey
Colobus Monkey
Colobus Monkey
Colobus Monkey

The Scoop

Dramatic Looks, Laid Back Attitude

Colobus monkeys are widely distributed across the forests and grasslands of Central Africa. The name comes from the Greek word ‘kolobus’ which means "maimed". This is a reference to the fact that the colobus monkey lacks thumbs on its hands. In spite of the lack of thumbs, colobus monkeys are great leapers. These monkeys have a dramatic coloration that is a beautiful sight against the deep green background of Central Africa’s rain forests. They have long, thick hair, with a cape-like trim of white for a stunning appearance. Finishing the look is a two-foot-plus long tail, ending in a fluffy white tip.

Colobus are the largest of the African colobines, or leaf-eating monkeys. Body length is 1.5 to 2.5 feet. The beautiful tail is one to three feet. Colobus monkeys weigh up to 26-pounds and look rather like giant skunks! These monkeys eat lots and lots of leaves. More than 80% of their diet consists of leaves that are tough and not very nutritious and presumably not-so-tasty. Colobus monkeys also eat fruit. They have well-developed molars that grind plant matter into a pulp. Then the monkeys’ three-chambered stomach takes over, fermenting the chewed leaves and breaking down the tough cellulose into useable energy. The stomach of a colobus is huge, compared to the rest of its body. That is because they eat such large amounts at a time and it takes so long to process their stomach contents. Colobus monkeys are not very active. When they are not eating, they are digesting. A troop of colobus monkeys spend lots of time sleeping or sunning in trees, their long white tails dangling below…they are really the most laid-back monkeys.

Although not yet endangered, an increase in deforestation and hunting of colobus monkeys has made them vulnerable. An important way to promote conservation of these monkeys is to simply spread awareness about colobus monkeys and emphasize the fact that the these monkeys can actually be helpful to a region’s economy, especially in tourism. 


Did You Know?

  • Colobus monkeys sometimes belch in each other’s faces as a friendly gesture. The monkeys generally communicate with a song-like call, a warning call, and a mating call.
  • Colobus monkeys are believed to be excellent weather forecasters because they are quiet when bad weather is coming.
  • New born colobus monkey babies have a coat that is all white. The coat darkens to the black and white adult pattern as they age.
  • Colobus monkeys use the branches of trees like a trampoline to catapult themselves from branch to branch.


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