This large, slate-grey mangabey is named for its prominent chestnut-red cap, which is surrounded by a white collar (2). Large blackish ears protrude through the white collar, and the fur on the underside of the slender body is also white (2). Striking white eyelids are conspicuous against the red-capped mangabey’s black face (2), and are the reason why some refer to it as the ‘four-eyed monkey’ (4). Like all mangabeys, the dark grey tail is longer than the body (5), and is frequently held with the white tip hovering over the head (2).
The red-capped mangabey lives in large groups of 12 to 23 individuals, with several adult males within each group (2). Loud cackles and alarm barks echo across the forest as the mangabeys keep in contact with the members of their group and signal their position to neighbouring groups. Often these dramatic calls are accompanied by much branch-shaking and grimacing by the adult males (2).
The red-capped mangabey feeds primarily on fruits and nuts growing in its lush forest habitat, but supplements its diet with the stems and roots of plants in the undergrowth (2). These primates possess strong incisor teeth which enable them to also eat hard seeds, which the guenon monkeys, with which they share their habitat, cannot (5).
The red-capped mangabey is generally found inhabiting swamp, mangrove or valley forest, but may be forced to range further from these preferred habitats in the dry season when the fruits it feeds on become scarcer (2)(7).
As with many African primates, habitat loss, habitat degradation and hunting threaten the red-capped mangabey (1). It was once widespread, but this primate is now disappearing from areas where agriculture has expanded into its habitat (2), and in areas of hunting pressure (6). This species is subject to intensive hunting, particularly in Cameroon and Nigeria (2), with its noisy, far-reaching calls making it an easy target to locate (6). It may also be caught in wire snares that are set around to villages to trap small ground-dwelling mammals (6).
Within its large distribution the red-capped mangabey occurs within only a few protected areas, such as Loanga and Mayumba National Parks in Gabon and Conkouati-Douli National Park in Congo, but many lack the effective anti-poaching measures that would ensure this species’ protection (6).
To learn more about a Whitley Award-winning conservation project for this species, click here.
Macdonald, D. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Maisels, F., Makaya, Q.P. and Onononga, J.R. (2007) Confirmation of the presence of the red-capped mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus) in Mayumba National Park, southern Gabon and Conkouati-Douli National Park, southern Republic of Congo. Primate Conservation, 22: 1 - 5.
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