Africa is home to a unique group of monkeys—the red colobus monkey—that are remarkably diverse, differing in coat color and pattern, facial expressions, behavior and vocalizations. They range broadly throughout east, west and central Africa, from Senegal on the Atlantic coast to the island of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean. Among the traits that define red colobus monkeys across species is a disheartening reality: they are all facing extinction, making them the most threatened group of primates in Africa. More than half of the 18 distinct forms of red colobus monkeys (scientists are unclear about how many species there are) are classified as Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. One, Miss Waldron’s Red Colobus, may already be extinct—there have been no reports of its existence since 1978, making GWC’s top 25 “most wanted” lost species list.
The threats to red colobus monkeys’ survival vary to a small degree geographically, but the primary drivers of their decline across Africa include:
- Hunting for trade and local subsistence
- Habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation due to logging, mining, charcoal production, infrastructure development and conversion of forest to farms and agriculture plantations
Global Wildlife Conservation is part of a group of partners developing a comprehensive Red Colobus Conservation Action Plan (ReCAP) under the African Primatological Society and IUCN Primate Specialist Group aimed at preventing the extinction of red colobus monkeys. The plan will elevate them to a flagship group for the countless other species that share their vanishing habitat. Red colobus monkeys’ range overlaps with at least 75 percent of all Threatened primate species on mainland Africa.
The Red Colobus Conservation Action Plan is an urgent, targeted and coordinated conservation response to the tragedy befalling red colobus monkeys and their habitat. Led by the IUCN Primate Specialist Group, ReCAP brings together local and international conservation groups, governments, academic institutions, zoos and interested partners to prevent a continent-wide extinction of all 18 red colobus forms. The program’s primary goals are to:
- Enhance and expand site-based conservation for all 18 red colobus monkey forms.
- Elevate red colobus monkeys to flagship status across their range and beyond.
- Develop cross-cutting, continent-wide initiatives to link and support site-based activities.
- Build capacity and create opportunities through training and mentoring programs.
ReCAP aims to integrate individual efforts to save red colobus monkeys into a holistic, continent-wide strategy that is both systematic and prioritized and able to achieve success on a large, cross-continent scale.
# of known RCM forms
Habitat loss, hunting
Up to 100 individuals