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. 58 – The Zanzibar Red Colobus Monkey


Red colobus and baby by David Edric

Photographer: David Edric

Description
Visualise someone leaping upwards fifty feet into the air carrying a twenty-five pound weight.  That is the equivalent of a female Zanzibar red colobus monkey travelling upwards with her clinging baby.  These colourful and friendly primates are Old World semi-brachiators, moving through the trees with a combination of leaping and brachiation. They are also quadrupedal, and can scamper on all fours across the top of the branches.  Above all, they are very athletic.  And, they are very endangered.

Zanzibar red colobus have pale-grey undersides with reddish-brown on the head and lower back.  They wear a mantle of black across the shoulders extending down the arms as a stripe.  They have black faces with white chins and foreheads.  Their legs have darker grey patches and their tails are brown.  Both male and female share these colours.  They are also very similar in size.

They do, however, have two notable features which single them out from other primates. Firstly, their tails are used as a balancing tool, whereas in other species the tail is used as an additional limb to aid forward movement.  Secondly, they lack opposable thumbs (colobus, is derived from the Greek word ekolobóse, meaning cut short).  Instead, they have four very long fingers which wrap around the branches enabling them to swing through the canopy with consummate ease.  On average, they weigh just under six kilos for males and five and a half kilos for females.  The mean length is twenty-two inches. Their tails are almost two feet long.

Within groups there is always a dominant male, determined by levels of aggression.  The hierarchy dictates the higher members of the group receive a larger distribution of food, social activities such as grooming, and females.  Groups can consist of as many as eighty individuals, though some are much less.  Females are usually more numerous within the groups.

There is no specific breeding season for the Zanzibar red colobus.  They mate throughout the year, but the inter-birth interval can be up to three years or more.  When the female falls pregnant, the gestation period lasts between five and six months, after which only one baby will be born.  The babies are born altricial and will be nursed for about eighteen months if female, and three to four years if male  (often males continue to nurse until they reach maturity).

The red colobus has a somewhat unusual predator in the chimpanzee.  Chimpanzees occasionally form large hunting parties and go on a killing spree for a few weeks.  They seem particularly fond of the red colobus.  When the marauding monkeys descend upon them, the red colobus males form a defence group, while the females collect their offspring ready to flee.  Sadly, the chimps manage to kill quite a lot of their fellow primates when on these missions and have been credited with contributing to the declining numbers.  The purpose is not solely to feed themselves, but also to acquire a nutritionally valuable item of trade.  With it, the chimpanzees are also able to show off their prowess to other males and their dependability to females.

Habitat
Gallery forest, scrub forest growing on coral rag and mangrove swamps.
Where
Endemic to Zanzibar  –  An island off the coast of (and part of) Tanzania,  East Africa
What they eat
Leaves, leaf buds, flowers and unripe fruit. On the ground, they eat charcoal to aid their digestive system.
Threats
Habitat destruction by way of logging, charcoal production, agricultural clearance and bush-burning.   They are sometimes shot for food, sport or as crop  pests by the locals, though these practice are now in decline and tourism is recognised as a valuable option. Illegal pet traders target the babies and will kill those around it who try to protect it. This can be a lot of monkeys.  Deaths on the roads happen from time to time.  Last of all, they fall prey to chimpanzees.  Those adorable little monkeys will eat meat, if given the chance, and are said to be responsible for killing up to one hundred red colobus every year.
Status: Endangered
The Zanzibar red colobus is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.   It is also listed as Class A under the African Convention, and protected under  Appendix I of CITES.   It is thought less than twelve hundred Zanzibar red colobus survive  in the wild.   Conservation funding has been provided by the WWF in the past, but little seems to have come of it.   In fact, there does not seem to be very much going on at all.   Although, awareness is being raised and farmers are now compensated by the government for damages to crops.  The majority of Zanzibar colobus live in the Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park

“All things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the man. The air shares its spirit with all the life it supports” Chief Seattle