Portrait of a Colobus Monkey


WOY WOY, Australia

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Artist's Description

Black and White Colobus Monkey
(Colobus guereza)

Classification and Range
Black and white colobus monkeys belong to the subfamily Colobinae. Four different species of black and white colobus monkey are recognized; the guereza (Colobus guereza), Angolan colobus (Colobus angolensis), Guinea forest black colobus (Colobus polykomos) and the satanic black colobus (Colobus satanas).* Black and white colobus monkeys are found across equatorial Africa.

Guereza monkeys are found in a diversity of habitats including primary and secondary deciduous forest, montane forest, lowland swamp, coastal forest, moist savanna and gallery forest.

Head and Body Length
18-28 inches (46-71 cm)

Tail Length
20-40 inches (51-101 cm)

17-32 pounds (7.6-14.5 kg)

Life Span
In the wild: up to 20 years

In the wild: Leaves, stems, bark, flowers, buds, shoots, fruits and some aquatic plants. In one study area, young leaves of the hackberry tree (Celtis durandii) are the food of choice for guereza monkeys.

Guerezas have no known breeding season. In the wild, females reach sexual maturity by age 5 and males by age 8. Females initiate courtship by tongue smacking. The gestation period is approximately six months. Females give birth to an average of one offspring every 20 months. Infants are born with eyes open, weighing about 0.9 pound (0.4 kg) and will occasionally cling to the mother’s waist like a belt. More often the mother carries them higher, using one arm to secure them while they are very young. Mothers will allow other females in their troop to handle and sometimes even suckle their infants soon after birth. Offspring are born with “natal fur” which is fluffy and white. From 4 to 12 months the infant will acquire adult coloring. Adults are glossy black with a white U-shaped mantle of fur on the back and a white tip on the tail. Adults also have a ring of white fur around their faces.

Life Cycle
Guerezas usually live in groups of three to 15 individuals. Groups are made up of one adult male (rarely two) and females with offspring. Females’ troop membership is stable but males must earn their status. Young males are forced by the lead male to leave their natal troop before breeding age. Lead males are occasionally ousted by young mature males that grew up with them or moved in from an outside troop. Intragroup relationships are usually friendly and reinforced with lots of grooming. Troop home ranges are about 35-74 acres (15-30 ha). Guerezas defend their ranges vigorously. Males do most of the defending by displaying through the trees with leaps and roars which can be heard a mile (1.6 km) away.

Intergroup meetings are usually hostile, mostly between males, which will make defensive gestures, vocalizations and occasionally chase or fight each other. Rarely, two troops will share a water hole or other resource.

Mutilated Monkey
The name “colobus” is derived from the Greek word meaning “docked” or “mutilated.” Colobus monkeys once were thought to be abnormal because they have no thumb, or only a small stub where the thumb would usually be. This is actually an adaptation rather than a mutilation which allows colobus monkeys to easily travel along the tops of branches quadripedally.

Strange Stomach
Colobus monkeys have unusual stomachs which are similar to the digestive systems of cows. The important feature of a colobus’ stomach is that it has three or four different regions. The upper “sacculated” regions are very large and are separated from the lower acid region. The sacculated stomach and the specialized bacterial microflora enables the monkeys to digest large volumes of leafy material. If the stomach was not as large as it is these monkeys would not be able to get ample nutrition from their food. Colobus monkeys always have a belly full of food which is in the process of being digested. The contents of the stomach can constitute up to a quarter of the weight of an adult and half the weight of an infant monkey.

Artwork Comments

  • sunshine0
  • Marilyn Harris
  • Phil Threlfall
  • JulieM
  • Plukie
  • Andy Harris
  • Sean Farragher
  • nannajul
  • Steve Bullock
  • Sheila Smith
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