11 Types of Monkeys Found in Rwanda! (ID Guide)

What kinds of monkeys live in Rwanda?

Types of monkeys in Rwanda

If you visit Rwanda, 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!

11 monkey species that live in Rwanda:

#1. Olive Baboon

  • Papio anubis

Also known as the Anubis Baboon.

Common Rwanda monkeys

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults grow up to 85 cm (33 in) long.
  • Their long muzzles resemble a dog’s, and their tails are strangely bent as if they were broken.
  • As their name suggests, their fur has an olive tint.

Olive Baboons are among the largest monkeys in Rwanda!

You’ll find them in savannas, forests, and grasslands. These primates gather in groups of 15-150 members.

Their flexible diets, as well as their adaptability to different habitats, have made them the most widespread species of all baboons. Olive Baboons eat anything from plants to small animals. When hunting as a band, they can even take down small antelopes! Populations close to farmlands also prey on goats and sheep.

These monkeys follow a complex social hierarchy. Adult females form the core of the system, with social ranks passed down from mother to daughter. Several females create smaller sub-groups to groom each other and provide backup during conflicts. Meanwhile, males compete with one another to establish dominance.

#2. Chimpanzee

  • Pan troglodytes

Also known as Chimps.

Common monkeys found in Rwanda

Identifying Characteristics:

  • On average, adults are 150 cm (59 in) long.
  • Their faces, hands, and feet are hairless, and they do not have tails.
  • They have shaggy coats of black fur. Gray patches and bald spots may develop as they age.

Although related, Chimpanzees are technically apes, not monkeys.

Chimpanzees have remarkable intelligence and are humans’ closest animal relatives. You’ll see them using altered sticks when probing for insects and honey. They also use rocks and branches to bash open hard-shelled nuts. Occasionally, they even rub insects onto their wounds for medical relief.

This iconic species lives in communities of up to 150 members. Frequently, they split into smaller groups when foraging for food. They mostly eat fruits, though they sometimes prey on warthogs and small monkeys when they are craving meat. Male chimps act as guardians, fighting off males from rival groups to defend their territories.

Chimpanzees are fascinating creatures, but it’s best to observe them from afar. In addition to their sharp teeth and incredible strength, chimps can be wildly unpredictable and aggressive. Several attacks on humans have been recorded, some of which have resulted in death.

Check out this video of the “Top 5” chimpanzee moments caught on camera by BBC Earth.

YouTube video

#3. Mantled Guereza

  • Colobus guereza

Also known as the Eastern Black-and-white Colobus and Omo River Guereza.

Monkeys of Rwanda

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Rwanda. 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.

YouTube video

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.

#4. Red-tailed Monkey

  • Cercopithecus ascanius

Also known as the Red-tailed Guenon or Schmidt’s Guenon.

Species of monkeys in Rwanda

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 30-61 cm (12-24 in) long, with tails that can reach 89 cm (35 in).
  • Their noses and cheeks are notably white, while their tails are reddish brown.
  • Brown or dark gray hair covers their bodies.

Red-tailed Monkeys in Rwanda use their long tails to balance themselves as they travel from tree to tree. If you encounter one of them, expect up to 30 more nearby. These monkeys live in forested regions. A dominant male leads the rest of the group, which consists mostly of females and their offspring.

Though they enjoy eating fruits the most, Red-tailed Monkeys switch to consuming leaves and insects in times of scarcity. Interestingly, they use their cheek pouches to store whatever food they find. They eat only once they’ve retreated to a safe area away from predators and thieving rivals.

This species is quite sociable, and it’s common to see them bumping noses as a form of greeting. Additionally, they make bird-like chirps when communicating from a distance. They also groom one another to deepen their bonds.

#5. Vervet Monkey

  • Chlorocebus pygerythrus

Also known as the Vervet, Common Vervet, Desert Tumbuli, or Yellow Monkey.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 42-60 cm (17-24 in) long with 49-75 cm (19-30 in) tails.
  • Males are larger, and you can easily identify them by their bright blue scrotums.
  • They have black faces. Their fur coats are shades of gray that grow brown towards the back.

Keep your food hidden! Vervet Monkeys are bold and frequently steal food from households.

These cheeky monkeys live in Rwanda in woodlands, savannahs, and mountainous regions. Their behavior is incredibly similar to humans, with some individuals showing traits such as anxiety and alcoholism.

YouTube video

Vervet Monkeys spend as much time among the trees as they do on the ground. When foraging the forest floor, they gather in groups of 10-40 individuals. Then, after a long day, they climb back up to the highest branches to rest.

Note that these monkeys are highly territorial and will scream aggressively at any intruders! For example, if a Vervet spots a predator lurking around, it will bellow an alarm call to inform others of the danger.

#6. Blue Monkey

  • Cercopithecus mitis

Also known as the Diademed Monkey.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 50-65 cm (20-26 in) long.
  • Look for a white patch of fur on their necks. They also have round, furry cheeks.
  • Contrary to their name, Blue Monkeys have grayish or olive coats.

Look for Blue Monkeys in Rwanda high among the tree canopy.

They prefer shaded areas with high humidity and nearby water sources. Blue Monkeys are occasional allies and share territory with Red-tailed Monkeys. On the other hand, they avoid Baboons and Chimpanzees, who sometimes prey on them.

Blue Monkeys function in groups of 10-15. An alpha male acts as the leader of several subgroups consisting of females and their children. Females can be aggressive towards one another, especially when defending their food.

Roughly half of their diets are fruits, but they also eat flowers, leaves, and slow-moving invertebrates. Blue Monkeys rarely leave the safety of treetops, so don’t expect to come across one at ground level. However, sometimes, they bask in the early morning sun from lower bare branches.

#7. Grey-cheeked Mangabey

  • Lophocebus albigena

Also known as the White-cheeked Mangabey.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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!

#10. Tantalus Monkey

  • Chlorocebus tantalus
Credit (left image): Bernard Dupont, via Wikimedia Commons

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 30-83 cm (12-33 in) long, with 41-66 cm (16-26 in) tails.
  • Males are notably larger than females.
  • They have dark faces outlined with white fur.
  • Their undersides are white, while the rest of their coats are grayish or yellow.

It’s common to encounter Tantalus Monkeys in Rwanda near people due to urban expansion. This species thrives in woodlands, grasslands, and degraded forests. Groups of 30 individuals loiter around the edges of forests, always close to fresh water. Their varied diets include grasses, berries, and small animals, but they enjoy fruits the most.

Tantalus Monkeys don’t take kindly to strangers, aggressively screaming to shoo away intruders. They have 36 unique alarm calls for different situations and threats. They’re so loud because they aren’t as nimble as other monkeys in trees.

Bands of Tantalus Monkeys spend most of their days foraging on the ground. Cleverly, these primates store food inside their cheeks for later consumption. Once a feeding ground runs low on resources, they migrate to new areas.

#15. Angola Colobus

  • Colobus angolensis

Also known as the Angolan Black-and-white Colobus.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 50-70 cm (20–28 in) long. Their 71-84 cm (28-33 in) tails have puffy white tips.
  • Long fringes of white hair hang from their dark faces and shoulders.
  • The rest of their bodies are coated with black fur.

Don’t expect a friendly encounter with these strange-looking monkeys in Rwanda! Angola Colobuses are aggressively territorial. A troop of up to 25 monkeys will mob trespassers to drive them away. Females typically lead the troop, while the dominant male acts as the defender. These primates thrive in bamboo habitats and other forests.

Seeing an Angola Colobus falling from great heights might surprise you, but don’t worry! These monkeys are famous for their impressive acrobatics and can easily grab a branch while free-falling. In addition, their lightweight and long-limbed bodies are perfect for leaping across the canopy.

Though they might have slim frames, Angola Colobuses have huge appetites. Their digestive systems are like cows and goats: they spend hours eating up to 3 kg (7 lbs) of leaves! They have no trouble digesting unripe fruits and mature leaves that other monkeys can’t.

#17. Eastern Gorilla

  • Gorilla beringei

Also known as Mountain Gorilla.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • These muscular apes can reach 150-170 cm (59-67 in) in length. They don’t have tails.
  • Males are significantly larger than females. As males age, the saddles on their backs turn silvery. Hence, older males are called “silverbacks.”
  • They have deep black or bluish-black coats.

Eastern Gorillas are the largest living primates on Earth! Sadly, they are a critically endangered species due to habitat destruction. There are two subspecies: Eastern Lowland Gorillas and Mountain Gorillas. Both hail from Rwanda, though you’ll find the first one in lowland tropical forests while the other endures the cold climates of cloud forests.

Fruits are scarce in their native range, so Eastern Gorillas primarily have leafy diets. Fortunately, this also means they don’t have to travel far to forage for food.

Because of their formidable size and strength, Eastern Gorillas don’t have many natural predators. This allows them to build their nests on the forest floor. They live in communities of up to 35 members led by a protective silverback. Though they’re mostly peaceful, a charging silverback gorilla is a heart-stopping sight. So always keep a respectful distance!

#30. L’Hoest’s Monkey

  • Allochrocebus lhoesti

Also known as the Mountain Monkey.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults grow 32-69 cm (13-27 in) long, and their hooked tails add another 48-99 cm (19-39 in).
  • Look for their distinctive white beards contrasting the rest of their bodies!
  • They have dark brown or black coats, with a patch of chestnut brown hair on their backs.

L’Hoest’s Monkeys in Rwanda prowl savannas, mountains, and lowland forests.

These bearded monkeys scour the ground for herbs and mushrooms. If they happen upon small animals and insects, they’ll catch and eat those too. Fence your properties! This species is known to steal crops from neighboring agricultural lands.

Unlike most primates, L’Hoest’s Monkeys spend more time on the ground than in the canopy. Nonetheless, they’re still expert climbers. When chased by predators, they will rush to the safety of trees and stay motionless until danger passes. Strangely, these monkeys sleep while sitting upright or clinging to branches.

An adult male leads a group of 10-17 females and their offspring. However, he won’t hold that position forever. It’s common for males from other groups to challenge the pack leader for authority and mating rights. On average, the alpha male loses his rank within a year or two.

For more information about animals in Rwanda, check out these guides:

Which of these monkeys in Rwanda is your favorite?

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