Golden angwantibo (Arctocebus aureus)

Also known as: golden potto
GenusArctocebus (1)
SizeHead-body length: 22 - 31 cm (2)
Weight266 - 465 g (2)

The golden angwantibo is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

The golden angwantibo (Arctocebus aureus) is a small, nocturnal primate with thick, woolly fur, which, as its name suggests, is golden-red or orange in colour. The underparts are creamy or greyish, and fine guard hairs on the back, shoulders and haunches have crinkled tips, giving the fur a frosted appearance. The head is rounded, with a pointed, narrow muzzle, the ears are small and rounded, and the eyes are large, giving the golden angwantibo excellent night vision (2) (4) (5). The golden angwantibo has no tail, and, instead, its extremely powerful grip, made possible by a specialised arrangement of blood vessels in the wrists and ankles, aids it in moving securely through the trees (2) (6). In common with other Loridae (lorises, pottos and angwantibos), the golden angwantibo has nails on all digits except for the second digit of each foot, which possesses a ‘toilet claw’, used in grooming (2) (6). Interestingly, the index finger is reduced to a mere stub (2) (5) (6).

The golden angwantibo is closely related to the Calabar angwantibo, Arctocebus calabarensis, and was previously considered a subspecies of the latter. However, it can be distinguished by its smaller size, more slender build and shorter, brighter red-orange fur (4) (5) (6).

The golden angwantibo has a widespread but patchy distribution in the tropical forests of West Africa, in Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Angola and Central African Republic (1) (4). It occurs south of the Sanaga River in Cameroon, and east as far as the Congo and Ubangui Rivers in Congo (7).

The golden angwantibo inhabits moist evergreen, lowland forest, preferring areas with fallen trees or young secondary growth. It is generally found in the understorey, below five metres, and may also venture onto the forest floor in search of food. It avoids climbing higher than about 15 metres, where the risk of predation, competition with birds, and exposure to wind and sun is higher, and also avoids climbing larger branches which its small, narrow hands and feet are not suited to grasping (4) (7).

Active mainly at night, the golden angwantibo sleeps by day in thick foliage or in the shelter of tree crevices. It moves through the trees on all fours, using a slow, deliberate, ‘hand-over-hand’ movement, and crosses between trees by stretching between terminal branches, rather than by leaping or jumping (2) (6) (7). On the ground, the golden angwantibo shows a unique defensive behaviour. If threatened, it stands with limbs rigid, widely spaced and fully extended, and the head tucked into the chest. If touched, it may lunge at the attacker from between the legs, with a quick, slashing bite (4). Alternatively, when in the trees, it may simply roll into a ball while clinging tightly to a branch (2) (5).

The golden angwantibo feeds mainly on insects and other invertebrates, particularly caterpillars, which it supplements with fruit (2) (5) (7). It may even rear onto its hind legs and use the hands to catch moths in flight (2) (5). The golden angwantibo eats many unpalatable and even poisonous invertebrates (4), and is thought to have an unusually slow metabolism which may allow undesirable chemicals to be neutralised in the gut (6). Although mainly solitary, the golden angwantibo may occasionally meet with other individuals with whom its home range overlaps (5) (6). Most communication is through scent (4) (6), particularly through urine marks (7). The female gives birth twice a year, to a single infant (1), after a gestation of between 131 and 136 days. Births may occur at any time of year, but are most often recorded during the wet season (7). The infant clings to the female’s belly for the first three to four months, after which it is weaned, and begins to follow the female or ride on her back. Individuals become sexually mature at around eight to ten months and may live for up to thirteen years (2).

The main threat to the golden angwantibo is habitat loss, due to logging and cultivation (1) (2) (7). In addition, although it is thought to be too small and cryptic to face much danger from human hunters (4), traps are not selective, meaning the golden angwantibo may be threatened by traps set for other species, particularly in light of its habit of coming down to the ground (8). The opening up of previously inaccessible areas for logging may lead to increased hunting pressure (9), and there may also be indirect effects of poaching of other species; for example, forest elephants help create the areas of secondary growth favoured by the golden angwantibo, and the loss of these elephants may therefore reduce golden angwantibo habitat (8). The relatively limited distribution of the golden angwantibo makes it more vulnerable to these threats than more widespread species (10).

The golden angwantibo is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning international trade in the species should be carefully controlled (3). It is also protected by law in Gabon, and is listed under Class B of the African Convention, which only allows it to be legally hunted, killed or captured with special authorisation (1) (11). It is presumed to occur in a number of the new National Parks in Gabon (1), and its ability to live in secondary forest may help the golden angwantibo to survive in habitats that have been disturbed by humans (2). However, the species is difficult to census thoroughly because of its nocturnal and secretive habits, and it has been understudied in the wild, meaning more research is needed to more fully understand the ecology and social organisation of this poorly known primate (10) and to better establish its true conservation status (1).

For further information on potto, angwantibo and loris conservation see:

For further information on primate conservation see:

Authenticated (12/10/10) by Dr Elizabeth Pimley, Senior Ecologist, Worcestershire Wildlife Consultancy.

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2008)
  2. Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  3. CITES (November, 2008)
  4. Kingdon, J. (1997) The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press, London.
  5. Ankel-Simons, F. (1999) Primate Anatomy: An Introduction. Academic Press, San Diego, California.
  6. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  7. All the World’s Primates Website - Golden Angwantibo, Arctocebus aureus (October, 2010)
  8. Conservation Database for Lorises and Pottos (November, 2008)
  9. Blom, A., Alers, M.P.T., Feistner, A.T.C., Barnes, R.F.W. and Barnes, K.L. (1992) Primates in Gabon - current status and distribution. Oryx, 26(4): 223-234.
  10. Pimley, E.R. (October, 2010) Pers. comm.
  11. African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (November, 2008)