Black crested mangabey (Lophocebus aterrimus)

Also known as: black mangabey
Synonyms: Cercocebus albigena aterrimus
GenusLophocebus (1)
SizeHead-body length: 45 - 65 cm (2)
Tail length: 80 - 85 cm (2)
Male weight: 6 - 11 kg (2)
Female weight: 4 - 7 kg (2)

The black crested mangabey is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3). Subspecies: the northern black mangabey (Lophocebus aterrimus aterrimus) is classified as Near Threatened and the southern black mangabey (Lophocebus aterrimus opdenboschi) is classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List (1).

As its name suggests, the black crested mangabey (Lophocebus aterrimus) can be distinguished from other mangabey species by the prominent pointed black crest of hair on top of its head (4). Often called “the ones with the thin waist” by locals (5), mangabeys are slender monkeys of medium size, with tails that are longer than the length of the body (6). The black crested mangabey has coarse black fur on the rest of its body, and grey, outward-curving cheek whiskers (7).

The female black crested mangabey is typically smaller and more slender than the male (2), and the fur of the juvenile is usually darker than that of the adults (8).

Since the black crested mangabey does not have the contrasting, bright eyelids which are used as social signals by other mangabey species, it relies on a series of calls for communication (9). The distinct ‘whoop-gobble’ call can be heard from a distance of one kilometre and is used by sexually mature males to maintain distance between groups. The ‘whoop’ functions as a signal for others to listen and the ‘gobble’ is specific to each individual, showing their location in the forest (10). A variety of nasal grunts are used to indicate when the group starts to move, and the male black crested mangabey also emits grunts to greet and comfort juveniles (10).

The black crested mangabey is found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, south of the Congo River, and in Angola (1).

Two subspecies of the black crested mangabey are recognised. Lophocebus aterrimus aterrimus occurs in the central Congo basin, while Lophocebus aterrimus opdenboschi occurs in south-western Democratic Republic of the Congoand north-eastern Angola (1).

The black crested mangabey occurs in primary and secondary rainforest, gallery forest and swamp land (4).

A highly arboreal monkey (6) (11), the black crested mangabey typically forages in the middle and upper canopy, 12 to 30 metres off the ground (4). Mangabeys are able to jump up to five metres between trees as they forage (4), but may also occasionally venture down to the forest floor in search of food (12). Most foraging takes place in the morning (13).

The black crested mangabey’s diet consists primarily of fruit and seeds, although it may also feed on some flowers, young leaves, nectar and bark (1) (14). Small animal prey, such as insects, may also be occasionally eaten (4) (14). All mangabey species have large incisors to bite into fruit and flat molars which help to crack open and crush hard seeds (15). Mangabeys also have large food pouches in the cheeks, used to store food (5).

The black crested mangabey lives in multi-male, multi-female troops of 9 to 16 individuals (4). Each troop inhabits a home range of approximately 48 to 70 hectares, which may overlap with the range of other troops (4).

Little information is available on the breeding biology of the black crested mangabey in the wild. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the black crested mangabey has been recorded giving birth in the wet season, in July and August (16). Mangabeys commonly give birth to a single young after a gestation period of five and a half to six months (9).

The crowned hawk eagle (Stephanoaetus coronatus) is a common predator of the black crested mangabey. When this bird is detected, the mangabey gives an alarm-bark then seeks cover in the dense canopy foliage, where it will remain silent for many hours (13).

The unregulated and often illegal extraction of timber from the Congo basin is probably the greatest threat to the black crested mangabey, as an unrelenting demand for timber from around the world drives the destruction of this primate’s habitat (1) (14) (17). The threat of logging is compounded by a growing human population in the region, causing an increase in land converted for cultivation (17).

Like many other mangabey species, the black crested mangabey is also hunted for bushmeat (1) (14). The construction of roads by logging companies opens up previously inaccessible areas of forest, increasing the threat of hunting for the region’s wildlife (17).

The black crested mangabey is listed under Appendix II of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered species (CITES), meaning that international trade in this species should be carefully controlled (3). It is also listed under Class B of the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, which means that capture and killing of the black crested mangabey is only allowed with permission (18).

The black crested mangabey occurs in the Salonga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo(1), an area where the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and United Nations Foundation (UNF) are working to preserve the forest and its wildlife by training and motivating staff to protect the park (19).

The black crested mangabey is also found in the Lomako-Yokokala Faunal Reserve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (1), an area created in 2006 to conserve an important population of bonobos (Pan paniscus) and numerous other species (20).

Learn more about conservation in the Congo basin:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2011)
  2. Kingdon, J. (1997) The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press, London.
  3. CITES (June, 2011)
  4. Rowe, N. (1996) The Pictorial Guide to the Living Primates. Pogonia Press, Rhode Island.
  5. Cercopan (June, 2011)
  6. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  7. Groves, C. (2001) Primate Taxonomy. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C.
  8. San Diego Zoo - Mangabeys (June, 2011)
  9. Field, L.P. (2003) Mangabeys: Cercocebus and Lophocebus. North American Regional Studbook. Sacramento Zoo, Sacramento.
  10. Estes, R.D. (1991) The Behavior Guide to African Mammals. University of California Press: California.
  11. Dunbar, R. and Barrett, L. (2000) Cousins. BBC Worldwide, London.
  12. Institute of Primate Research (June, 2011)
  13. Horn, A.D. (1987) The socioecology of the black mangabey (Cercocebus aterrimus) near Lake Tumba, Zaire. American Journal of Primatology, 12: 165-180.
  14. Lee, P.C., Thornback, J. and Bennett, E.L. (1988) Threatened Primates of Africa. The IUCN Red Data Book. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge.
  15. Strier, K.B. (2000) Primate Behavioural Ecology. Allyn & Bacon, Boston.
  16. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Primates of the World. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  17. WWF - Congo Basin (June, 2011)
  18. African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (June, 2011)
  19. Zoological Society of Milwaukee - Salonga National Park Support (June, 2011)
  20. African Wildlife Foundation (2006) A big win for conservation in DRC - Lomako Yokokala Faunal Reserve officially gazetted. AWF, 14 July. Available at: