In this post, you'll learn all about Central Africa's golden monkey. You'll learn facts, including range, diet, population, social life, communication, and more.
Everything You Want To Know About Uganda's Golden Monkey
Uganda is home to many natural wonders and an incredible diversity of plant and animal life. Not least among these is the Golden monkey, or Cercopithecus kandti.
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12 Golden Monkey Facts
If you are planning a trip to Uganda, find answers to all of your questions about this magnificent creature, and brush up on your knowledge of the country’s native wildlife by exploring these 12 Golden monkey facts.
1. What is an Old World Monkey?
The golden monkey is what is known as an “Old World Monkey.”
Old World Monkeys are a family of monkeys known as Cercopithecidae, which includes two subfamilies, Cercopithecenae and Colobinae. The golden monkey belongs to Cercopithecenae. Between these two subfamilies, there are over 132 species of Old World monkeys!
What separates Old World monkeys from New World monkeys? The Old World monkeys can be found in, of course, Uganda and other parts of Africa, but also South and East Asia, the Middle East, and even a tiny corner of Southern Spain. New World monkeys, on the other hand, live in Central and South America, as well as Mexico.
Old and New World monkeys are also separated by a surprising anatomical feature: their noses! Old World monkeys, including the Golden, have nostrils that point downwards, whereas New World monkeys have nostril that point to the sides.
2. Where does the Golden monkey get its name?
As you may be able to guess, the Golden monkey gets its name for its striking coloring. The tails of the Golden monkey are bright, vibrant, golden orange, as are its cheeks, and patches of its back and torso. This poses a sharp contrast to its jet-black legs and head for a visually stunning effect.
3. Is the Golden monkey a distinct species?
While the Golden monkey is currently recognized as its own genetically unique species, you may be surprised to find out that it is only relatively recently that the Golden monkey has been recognized as such. It used to be considered a subspecies of the closely related, but distinct, Blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis).
4. Where does the Golden monkey live?
The Golden monkey is an Albertine Rift Endemic. You are probably wondering what exactly that means!
The Albertine Rift is a geographic area of mountains and valley that is confined between the northern side of Lake Albert and the southern tip of Lake Tanganyika. It includes a part of Uganda, but also portions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania. “Endemic” is a term that refers to the population of a species that is confined to a certain area.
The Golden monkey, for instance, used to live in broader areas of Uganda and other African nations, but can now only be found in the Albertine Rift. The Albertine Rift is a place of magnificent beauty and unsurpassed biodiversity. Over half of all of Africa’s bird species call it home, along with just under half of its mammals and nearly a quarter of its plants and amphibians (along with quite a few humans). The Golden monkey is certainly in good company in this protected area.
5. How big is the Golden monkey population? Is it under threat?
Sadly, the Golden monkey belongs to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List of Threatened Species.
According to the IUCN, the Golden monkey has been an endangered species since 1996. The IUCN includes the Golden monkey on this list for a few reasons. The Golden monkey is estimated to have a population of only 2,500-3,500, and this population is dwindling. The Golden monkey’s habitat is now confined to an area about 5,000 square kilometers in the Albertine Rift.
Why is the Golden monkey population being threatened? The Golden monkey lives mostly in bamboo forests, and are subject to the constant threat of habitat loss and deforestation. The Golden monkey’s have few animal predators (with certain bird species being an occasional, but relatively inconsequential, exception) so the main threats to its life are humans who may set illegal traps and snares, or cut down the bamboo that Golden monkey’s lives depend on.
There are many conservation efforts underway to protect this special animal, but as for now it is still endangered. Saving the Golden monkey means saving Uganda’s bamboo forests!
6. What does the Golden monkey eat?
While it is mostly herbivorous, munching on bamboo leaves and shoots, as well as other types of fruits, flowers, and leaves, it can also be guilty of enjoying the occasional insect and invertebrate!
While the Golden monkey has been known to snack on up to 30 species of plants, its favorite food is bamboo. The Golden monkey can adapt its meals to the seasons, in the dry season they eat almost exclusively fruits, while in the rainy season they primarily dine upon bamboo shoots and buds of other plants.
This is one of the Golden monkey adaptations that helps it survive in a climate with a great variance of natural conditions.
One of the qualities that makes monkeys and other primates so fascinating is that they often live in complex social webs with relationships and bonds that can be reminiscent of those of humans. As for Golden monkeys, they usually live in packs of 30-80 individuals.
They have been known to live in smaller groups of only a few individuals. Out of this group, there is usually only one male! The females tend to guard one territorial region while the males may mate and then travel pack-to-pack. Given the opportunity to live out it’s natural life span, the Golden monkey will live for up to 20 years.
8. What about baby Golden monkeys?
While the mating habits of this species are largely under researched, we do know that the species mating rituals are what is known as “polygynous” meaning the one male in the pack will mate with nearly all of the females. However, it is actually the female that must initiate the mating process.
After that, it takes five months of gestation for a baby golden monkey to be born. Interestingly, the baby Golden is born with all of its fur and wide-open eyes!
After birth, the mother will care for her infant for two years until it reaches the age of independence. After this, the male Goldens will leave their pack, while the females will typically live out the duration of its life in the group it was born in.
9. How do the Golden monkeys nest?
In addition to relying on bamboo for nutrition, the Golden monkey also uses bamboo to craft little homes. In an astounding feat of intelligence, Goldens actually weave multiple bamboo plants together to make “beds.”
The Golden’s will travel a bit during the day to feed, but return to these beds for rest night after night for a period of time.
10. How do Golden monkeys communicate?
Scientists have observed Golden monkeys using calls for a variety of purposes. Males primarily use their calls as signs of aggression and territorial defensiveness, while female calls have more social functions, such as identifying themselves as part of a group.
The young of the group will use calls to demonstrate their submissiveness. In addition to vocalizations, Golden monkeys have highly emotive features and are known to communicate with each other through these facial expressions.
11. What other species are in the Golden monkey family?
The Golden monkey is closely related to several other species native to Uganda. Also in the Cercopithecus family are
- Blue monkey
- Silver monkey
- Red-tailed monkey
- De Brazza’s monkey
- L’Hoest’s monkey
Of these, the Blue monkey is the most common and L’Hoest’s monkey is the most elusive. While these species all belong to the same genus, their habitats, appearances, and social lives vary greatly.
12. How can I see a Golden monkey for myself?
After learning these fascinating facts about the Golden monkey, you may be wondering how you can catch a glimpse of one on your trip to Uganda.
Your best bet is to plan a visit to the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Here, you can try your hand at tracking the fascinating species. For a small fee, you can join a tracking excursion at the park and explore the Virunga mountains where the last breeding populations of Golden monkeys live.
The chance to observe this monkey in the wild is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is sure to become one of the highlights of your Uganda vacation and will be a memory you cherish for years to come.
Hopefully, you have been intrigued by this assortment of facts on one species of Ugandan wildlife.
The Golden monkey is just one of the strange and beautiful beings that calls Uganda home, so start getting excited for a trip to Uganda and all of the adventures and opportunities it can offer you.