Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 82 – Pennant’s Red Colobus


Pennant's Red Colobus

Image courtesy: The Drill Project

“I cannot see how there can be any real and full recognition of Kinship as long as men continue either to cheat or to eat their fellow beings.”
Henry Salt (1851-1939)

On a small, highly biodiverse island in the Gulf of Guinea, there lives a species of monkey which, surprisingly, is not dying out through loss of habitat.   Incredibly, this unfortunate monkey is instead being eaten into extinction.  And, not as a subsistence food either.  The poor cannot afford to eat monkey-meat on the island of Bioko. This Pennant's Red Colobusis strictly the privilege of the more well-to-do.  Oil money has taken care of that, and red colobus is now considered a luxury item on the menu.   As more have developed a penchant for the meat, the price has shot up, trade in the island’s market of Malabo is burgeoning, demand is high, and the red colobus are rapidly declining in numbers. The usual arguments about  the indigenous peoples being hungry and depending on a species for food, are meaningless here.   The  local populace are eating this animal because they want to.

Red colobus weigh in at anything up to twenty-two pounds. They can grow to as much as two feet tall with a slightly longer, non-prehensile tail length of two feet four inches. Typical of its species, Pennant’s red colobus has a small head, a long back and the characteristic red colobus round belly.  Its limbs are long and spindly ending in thumbless, elongated, hook-like fingers.  Its coat comes in various shades of brown and red on the back, with a light underside and orange and black down the sides of the limbs. It has a black fur on its head, which is usually parted down the centre.

The mouth contains specialist molars for softening or breaking up leaves and fruit.  It also has a multi-chambered stomach for fermentation of ingested food.

Pennant's red colobus Red colobus are arboreal, slow and noisy.  When not simply leaping across the branches, they move through them by bending the thinner, more flexible ones and using them as catapults.  They live in groups of twelve to eighty comprising of both male and female individuals, with females outnumbering the males twofold. Females tend to remain with the same group throughout their lives, whilst males move between troops.  They communicate between each other and other troops using a series of barks and squawks.

There is little or no information available about the reproductive habits of Pennant’s Red Colobus (Procolobus pennantii),  so I think it may be fair to assume it will be much the same as say, the Zanzibar red colobus (Procolobus kirkii) which is as follows.
There is no specific breeding season and they mate throughout the year, but the inter-birth interval can be up to three years or more.  The gestation period lasts between five and six months, after which only one baby will be born.  The babies are born altricial. (Please remember, this part is only an assumption)

Habitat
Primary and secondary rain forest, and swamp forestsPennant's red colobus
Where

Equatorial Guinea (the island of Bioko).  Two other sub-species exist in the Niger Delta (Procolobus pennantii epieni) and the Republic of the Congo (Procolobus pennantii bouvieri).
What they eat
Fresh leaves, flowers, fruit and seeds.
Threats
The main threat to Pennant’s Red Colobus is commercial hunting for the bushmeat market. Habitat loss has also played a part as has limited range and small numbers.
Status: Endangered
Pennant’s Red Colobus  (Procolobus pennantii ssp. pennantii) is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Endangered. It is also listed as one of the  “World’s 25 most endangered primates”.   Almost half the entire red colobus population has been lost to uncontrolled bushmeat hunting over the past two decades.

There are no red colobus monkeys kept in any recognised public zoos or other known approved places operating captive breeding programs.  Though it has been tried, it was found red colobus did not do well in captivity.  

National laws forbid hunting of primates in protected areas, but these laws are not enforced.  

The Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program  had this to say:   “The continuing BBPP presence in the marketplace is also a constant reminder to both buyers and sellers that trafficking in primate carcasses is illegal.”

This may well be a constant reminder, but it doesn’t seem to be much of an ongoing deterrent.  With the price of red colobus meat exceeding all expectations in some quarters, it could be some time before an end is brought to this despicable trade.

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Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 81 – The Eastern Lowland (Grauer’s) Gorilla


Grauer's Gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri)

“The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of humanity”
George Bernard Shaw

During the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the people were not the only ones to suffer.  Populations of gorillas were depleted dramatically.  This highly biodiverse country is among the poorest in the world and this species was, and still is, greatly exploited as a food source.  Mothers have been slain and babies sold on the black market, and parts of the animals have been traded for medicinal usage.  The species can currently be found in an area where refugees, poachers and militia still abound.Kijivu, a captive lowland gorilla, feeds her one-day-old infant, at a zoo in Prague, Czech Republic, Sunday. Kijivu gave birth to the baby Photo Michal Dolezal

The Eastern lowland gorilla, also known as Grauer’s gorilla, is the largest of all the gorilla species and one of the five great apes; in the company of orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos and man.  It is one of two sub-species of eastern gorilla found in Africa.  The other is the critically endangered mountain gorilla. The eastern lowland gorilla is far more numerous than the mountain gorilla, but none-the-less, still endangered.

Having heavy bodies, large hands equipped with opposable thumbs, short muzzles and dark-grey to black coats, this species is well-adapted to jungle life.  The backs of the male gorillas, upon reaching maturity, will change to a silvery-white colour, giving rise to the name ‘silverback’.  Faces are hairless, as are hands, ears and feet.  As the animals reaches maturity, the chest will lose hair, too.

Fully grown male Eastern lowland gorillas can weigh up to four hundred pounds and reach a height of five and a half feet when upright.  There is one documented case of a silverback reaching five feet eleven inches – but this is rare.

Gorillas are diurnal and do most of their foraging early morning and late in the day.  The rest of their time is spent sleeping, playing and socially grooming.  Gorillas build, sleep and birth in nests in the trees.  They live in groups of thirty-five to fifty individuals, with the most dominant silverback at the head of the group.

Silverback screamingGorillas, like other primates, have various means of communicating with each other and intruders.  In the case of unwanted callers, males defend their territory, females and babies with a combination of sheer bulk and flamboyant displays of charging and chest beating.  Barks, hoots, roars and screams complete this intimidating package.  Visual gestures, body language and facial expressions are also forms of communication.

Gorillas are polygynous.  There is no set breeding season and the dominant silverback will father most of the offspring.  After a gestation period of about eight and a half months, one  infant will be born (very occasionally two).  Infants weigh roughly four and a half pounds.  Newborns can crawl after nine weeks and walk at eight to nine months. They will nurse for three years or more, remaining in the mother’s nest.  Full maturity comes at about twelve years of age.  Females give birth only once every three or four years.  Unfortunately, there is a very high infant mortality rate.  This greatly affects the Eastern lowland gorilla’s ability to replenish its numbers.

Habitat
Montane, transitional and lowland tropical forests.
Where
Democratic Republic of the Congo.
What they eat
Plants, leaves, stems and bark, fruits and seeds.  They also occasionally consume ants and termites.
Threats
Loss of habitat due to agricultural expansion, degradation of habitat from illegal logging, illegal mining and road building for the same, and charcoal production.  Poaching for bushmeat and medicine, and the capture and trade of baby gorillas has had a detrimental affect on the population, due to the slow reproductive rates of this already diminishing species.   Disease; epidemics such as ebola and diseases passed on by humans are also a large threat.
Status: Endangered
The Eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered.
The IUCN has come together with various other well-known international organisations to stave off the extinction of this wonderful primate (see related articles below).  Here is what the IUCN have to say:
“Today, the remaining Grauer’s Gorilla populations are small and localised and occur in regions of intense illegal mining activity and insecurity,” said Stuart Nixon of Fauna & Flora International. “Until we can complete the much-needed surveys, our best guess is that between 2,000 and 10,000 gorillas remain in 14 isolated populations. Without a dedicated effort, the next 10 years will be marked by continuing local extinctions of this forgotten gorilla” (see related articles below).
Other organisations, such as WildLife Direct (also see related articles below), have their own worthy conservation programs for the gorillas.

Baby Eastern lowland gorilla resued from poachers - Virunga Gorilla Park 2011 by LuAnne CaddRelated Articles
Pride: a secret weapon in protecting primates 
Grauer’s Gorilla caught in the crossfire of conflict (IUCN) 
WildLife Direct-  Keeping our gorillas safe and healthy!
Rarest gorillas lose half their habitat in 20 years
Gorillas in the Mist…
Human virus linked to mountain gorilla deaths

Sir David Attenborough launches crowdfunding campaign to save mountain gorillas