Geoffroy’s black-and-white colobus (Colobus vellerosus)

Also known as: ursine black-and-white colobus, white-thighed black-and-white colobus
Synonyms: Colobus polykomos
GenusColobus (1)
SizeMale head-and-body length: 61 – 64 cm (2)
Female head-and-body length: 61 – 66 cm (2)
Tail length: 75 – 81 cm (2)
Male weight: 9.9 kg (2)
Female weight: 8.3 kg (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU A1cd+2cd) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

Geoffroy’s black-and-white colobus is predominantly black, displaying the least white fur out of all the black-and-white colobus monkeys (4). Markings occur in the form of a broad, snowy white beard and bushy white facial fringe, a distinctive white strip on the thigh and a white slightly-tufted tail (2) (5). It is thought that the black and white patches help break up the body outline in the shadowy forest canopy (4). Infants are born with a completely white natal coat, and begin to change colour at around three months (6). The body is slender, with a long tail, and prominent rump callosities (bare patches of tough thickened skin on the buttocks) (7). Like other African colobus, the thumbs are reduced to small nubs, but the remaining fingers are long and form a hook-like hand well adapted to gripping branches (4). This species was previously considered a subspecies of king colobus (Colobus polykomos), but was elevated to a distinct species in 1983 (5) (8).

Found in West Africa from the Ivory Coast to west Nigeria (8), in Benin, Ghana, eastern Ivory Coast, western Nigeria and Togo (5).

Lowland rainforest, deciduous gallery forest and savannah forest, up to 350 m elevation (2) (5).

Geoffroy’s black-and-white colobus lives in multi-male, multi-female groups, with an average of 16 members, including up to four adult males (2) (5). The home range is around 50 hectares. Little is known about the mating behaviour and reproductive biology of this colobus except that females give birth to a single offspring (5). Diurnal and arboreal, this species prefers to stay within the trees, but will travel across the ground between forest patches in savannah habitats. The diet consists mainly of leaves, fruit and seeds (2). As in all colobus species, this monkey has a complex compartmented stomach to assist in the breakdown of tough leaf material (6).

The major threats that face black-and-white colobus species are habitat destruction and hunting (4) (7). Habitat destruction and fragmentation has occurred as a result of subsistence farming, commercial agricultural development and selective logging (7). Hunting pressure on colobus monkeys for their meat, fur and for the pet trade has also been immense. Many African people have traditionally worn colobus skins for ornamentation and, overseas, skins have been used for trimming coats or made into rugs or wall hangings. The overseas demand was particularly high in the late 19th century, during which one to two million colobus were killed. Today, tourists in some parts of Africa continue to contribute to the decline in these animals by buying souvenirs made from their fur (4). However, this practice applies more to other black-and-white colobus, such as the East African C. guereza, with Geoffroy’s black-and-white colobus hunted more for its meat than for its pelt (5).

This species’ listing under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) regulates its commercial trade across international borders (3). There are no captive populations at present but this colobus is known to occur in 15 protected areas (5). In order to better conserve Geoffroy’s black-and-white colobus, priorities must focus on preventing or managing hunting, and on protecting suitable forest habitats from further degradation and destruction (7).

For further information on Geoffroy’s black-and-white colobus see:

Oates, J.F. (1996). African Primates Status Survey and Conservation Action plan. IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group, Switzerland.

African Mammals Databank:

Authenticated (28/11/2005) by Matt Richardson, independent primatologist and writer.

  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2009)