What kinds of monkeys live in the Congo?
If you visit the Congo, it’s only natural to ask yourself the above question. I mean, who doesn’t want to see monkeys!?
Luckily, there are quite a few species you should be able to find. So, keep reading to learn how to identify each monkey, ape, and primate, and learn some fun and interesting facts. Pictures and range maps are also included!
10 monkey species that live in the Congo:
#1. Mantled Guereza
- Colobus guereza
Also known as the Eastern Black-and-white Colobus and Omo River Guereza.
- Adults grow up to 62 cm (24 in).
- Their faces are framed with white hair, but the tufts on their heads are black. Their tails have white tufts towards the tips.
- Their coats are mostly black with long, white-tipped hairs on the back.
The Mantled Guereza is one of the prettiest monkeys in the Congo. They hang out in groups of 3-15 members, usually near river streams. You’ll have to look up the treetops to spot them! They leap across branches with ease, only descending to the ground when the gaps in the canopy are too wide.
The most common way to find Mantled Guerezas is to listen. They make a chorus of roars just before sunrise! Dominant males from different groups roar at one another to declare their territories. This prevents unnecessary conflict between the groups.
With only leaves, flowers, and unripe fruits as their source of nutrition, these monkeys don’t get enough energy for long travel and foraging. Instead, they take turns sleeping throughout the day, with at least one individual acting as a guard against predators.
#2. Grey-cheeked Mangabey
- Lophocebus albigena
Also known as the White-cheeked Mangabey.
- Adults are 45-73 cm (18-29 in) long with tails between 67-100 cm (26-39 in).
- A dull brown mane covers their necks, shoulders, and chests. Their thick coats are dark brown or black.
- They have whitish or gray hairs on their cheeks, as their name suggests.
The Grey-cheeked Mangabey lives in the treetops of tropical forests alongside 5-30 others. Territories usually overlap between opposing groups. Thankfully, these groups avoid one another, so conflicts rarely occur. Several males act as protectors, risking their lives to drive away eagles that prey on their young.
Foraging for food high up in the canopy can be treacherous. Fortunately, Grey-cheeked Mangabeys have long, prehensile tails to help them balance as they leap from branch to branch.
They use their strong jaws to crack hard nuts and seeds that other primates can’t open. However, figs are their favorite food. They like them so much that studies have even shown that Grey-cheeked Mangabeys give birth more often during the fruiting season of fig trees!
#3. Moustached Monkey
- Cercopithecus cephus
Also known as the Moustached Guenon or Red-tailed Mustached Monkey.
- Adults are 49-58 cm (19-23 in) long with 70-78 cm (28-31 in) tails.
- They have bluish-gray faces. Their coats are a blend of gray and brown fur.
- True to their name, these monkeys have a prominent white strip of fur under their noses, resembling a mustache!
Moustached Monkeys in the Congo are naturally gifted jumpers.
They can leap across tree gaps up to 20 meters (66 feet) apart! Most of the time, however, they prefer to walk on all fours. Careful not to fall, they use their tails to grip branches for balance.
Gathering in troops of 10-40 members, Moustached Monkeys sometimes ally with other primates such as Mangabeys. These alliances allow them to have more eyes looking for predators.
Moustached Monkeys mostly eat fruits, but nuts from oil palm trees are a crucial part of their diets. As omnivores, they also eat baby birds, eggs, and insects. These monkeys store food in their large cheek pouches while foraging to avoid predators. Then, they retreat to sheltered areas where they can eat in peace.
#4. Putty-nosed Monkey
- Cercopithecus nictitans
Also known as the Cowardly Monkey and Greater Spot-nosed Monkey.
- Adults are 43-66 cm (17-26 in) long. Their tails can grow 36-53 cm (14-21 in) in length.
- These monkeys earned their names because of their distinctive white noses.
- You might notice a “mustache” on their upper lips. They have olive-gray fur.
You’ll need to look up to spot Putty-nosed Monkeys in the Congo.
They rarely climb down to the forest floor. These monkeys thrive in humid habitats such as tropical and mangrove forests. A community has 12-30 members, each skilled at acrobatic displays when traveling from branch to branch.
A Putty-nosed monkey with puffy cheeks is likely saving food for later. Its highly elastic cheek pouch can store almost as much food as its stomach can fit. This species feeds mainly on fruits and occasionally nuts and leaves. Populations living close to agricultural lands might raid farm crops as well.
Putty-nosed Monkeys are incredibly alert and vocal. Males often make booming calls to signal danger to the rest of their troops. They’re so easily startled that some people call them “cowardly monkeys.”
#5. Western Gorilla
- Gorilla gorilla
Also known simply as gorillas.
- Adults reach 120-180 cm (47-71 in) tall.
- They are mostly black or dark gray, though their foreheads have a brown tinge.
- Adult males have a patch of silver hair on their backs.
- Females are roughly half the size of males. They also have much less prominent crowns.
The critically endangered Western Gorilla lives in secluded tropical rainforests and swamps. An adult male, or “silverback,” typically protects 4-8 adult females and their offspring.
Together, these apes travel vast distances in search of their favorite food: fruits. They also supplement their diets with roots, shoots, and nuts. During drier seasons, you’ll see them probing termite mounds with tools fashioned from sticks.
Most of the time, Western Gorillas live peacefully even when they cross paths with other groups. Now and then, however, a silverback will challenge the troop leader to usurp his position. You’ll recognize such challenges when these apes start beating their chests with their fists.
While their parents are busy foraging for the family, juveniles play with each other during the day. Once night falls, Western Gorillas build nests out of plant material. They each get a nest to sleep in, except for infants who sleep with their mothers.
#6. Crowned Monkey
- Cercopithecus pogonias
Also known as Crested Mona Monkey, Crowned Guenon, Golden-bellied Guenon, or Golden-bellied Monkey.
- Adults can grow 32-53 cm (13-21 in) long, with 66-89 cm (26-35 in) tails.
- Males are larger than females, and you can distinguish them by their blue scrotums.
- Take note of the black “mask” spanning their temples, eyes, and noses.
- They have brown coats of fur with gray specks. Their undersides are paler in contrast.
Crowned Monkeys in the Congo live in lowland rainforests that feature healthy canopies. They are clever and quick-handed, swiftly stuffing their cheeks with fruits and seeds. Before eating, they move to a safer area where thieves and predators can’t reach them.
Normally, a band of Crowned Monkeys has 8-20 members and is led by an alpha male. They’re highly vocal. You’ll recognize them by the booming call an alpha makes to announce his territory to neighboring troops.
Crowned Monkeys are impressively agile. To cross wide-gapped branches, they run on all fours before making an enormous leap. They normally walk unscathed even when they miss their landing and fall to the ground. While resting, they entwine their tails with each other.
#7. Agile Mangabey
- Cercocebus agilis
- Adults are 44-65 cm (17-26 in) in length and have long tails.
- They have bare, black faces bordered by light-colored tufts of hair.
- Their coats are short, olive-gray, and paler toward their underparts.
Agile Mangabeys prefer to live in swampy areas and untouched forests. A dominant male leads a troop of 7-22 members. They usually stay high up in the trees near freshwater sources. However, they descend to the forest floor during the dry season to forage.
Like most monkeys in the Congo, Agile Mangabeys eat fruits, grasses, and mushrooms. Additionally, this species has large teeth and powerful jaws to break open hard nuts. They don’t always eat their spoils on the spot. Sometimes, they store food inside their cheek pouches to snack on later.
You’ll most likely hear Agile Mangabeys before you see them! These noisy monkeys have many calls for alerting and maintaining their groups. If you do see one, watch out when it starts staring and bobbing its head up and down. This is an aggression display, so it’s best you take the hint and back away.
#8. Central Potto
- Perodicticus edwardsi
Also known as the Milne-Edwards Potto.
- Adults are 37-42 cm (15-17 in). Their puffy tails are about 6 cm (2 in) long.
- They have large eyes and pointed snouts.
- Their thick coats are different shades of brown.
These solitary primates live in swampy areas and lowland tropical forests. Central Pottos are shy and nocturnal, so they’re not easy to come by. Look for glowing orbs in the dark! Central Pottos have a layer of reflective tissue through their retinas, giving them keen night vision and luminescent eyes.
Fruits make up most of their food intake, with figs being a particular favorite. In times of drought, Central Pottos sustain themselves with tree gum, snails, and insects. After foraging at night, they retreat to the safety of tree hollows to rest in the daytime.
Central Pottos aren’t acrobats like other monkeys in the Congo.
Instead, they make slow, stealthy movements as they cross branches so they don’t attract attention from predators. Mother pottos rub saliva on their offspring to repel predators. Despite their docile personalities, they are better left alone. If cornered, these animals will hiss and lunge at their captors.
- Mandrillus sphinx
- Adults are 55-95 cm (22-37 in) long, with extremely short tails.
- Males are unmistakable! They are large and have colorful faces. A patch of ridged blue skin flanks its bright red nose.
- Females are much smaller and have less vibrant colors.
- They have shaggy olive-brown coats with patches of pale blonde hair on the undersides.
The Mandrill is the largest true monkey in the Congo!
Inhabiting freshwater swamps, savannas, and tropical rainforests, these monkeys spend their day foraging at ground level. They pick a new tree to sleep in each night so predators can’t track them down.
They predominantly eat fruits, seeds, and leaves. What you might find surprising, though, is that Mandrills actively hunt down young antelopes! First, they kill their prey with a sharp bite to the head. Afterward, the meat is shared with all who helped during the hunt.
A group of Mandrills is called a “horde,” which is appropriate considering their numbers rise into the hundreds. Males try to establish dominance by slapping the ground and intimidating each other. However, they actively avoid fights because their long canines can inflict grievous wounds on each other.
#10. Southern Needle-clawed Galago
- Euoticus elegantulus
Also known as the Elegant Galago and Western Needle-clawed Bushbaby.
- Adults are about 20 cm (8 in) long. Their tails average 29 cm (11 in).
- They have significantly huge eyes and ears in proportion to their body size.
- Their soft coats are a blend of orange-brown and gray hair. Their underparts are paler in contrast.
Southern Needle-clawed Galagos live in wet tropical rainforests where gum-producing trees are abundant. They seldom leave the cover of the canopy and are nocturnal, so they’re hard to come by. However, predators track them through the scent of their urine.
If you spot one of these primates in the Congo, you might be startled to see its head turn 180 degrees! Thanks to this ability, plus their keen eyes and ears, they are excellent at scanning for threats. When chased, Southern Needle-clawed Galagos leap and glide with their limbs outstretched to escape their pursuers.
As their name suggests, these creatures have sharp nails that allow them to grip the limbs of trees. Meanwhile, their fan-shaped front teeth make it easier to extract gum from tree trunks. Females forage in small groups, but males prefer to do so alone.
For more information about animals in the Congo, check out these guides:
Which of these monkeys in the Congo is your favorite?
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