Colobus comes from the Greek word “mutilated” because colobus monkeys do not have thumbs, unlike other monkeys. Their beautiful black coat strongly contrasts with the long white mantle on its back, whiskers, bushy tail, and beard around the face.
The Black-and-white Colobus Monkey has a tail that is longer than the head and body combined, with the anterior half grey and the tuft taking up about half its length. Its mantle is long and extends onto the back, becoming longer further back on the body. It has a U-shaped cape of white hair running from the shoulders to the lower back.
Like other colobines, it possesses a large and multi-chambered stomach, allowing it to better digest plant fibres, including foliage. Bacteria also assist the ability to digest plant material in some regions of the stomach. Together, these and other morphological adaptations allow the species to feed on large quantities of leaves.
Black-and-white colobus monkey behaviour
The black-and-white colobus is the most arboreal of all African monkeys, spending most of its time in the canopy and rarely descending to the ground. However, they walk between empty forest patches to hunt and feed.
Thes primates use branches as trampolines, leaping between branches up to 30 meters apart. Their mantle hair and tails act as a parachute during these long leaps.
They live in territorial troops of about five to ten monkeys with a dominant male, several females, and their young ones. Males may stick around the group until they mature but leave once they mature. Some females remain with their birth group for their entire life.
Each troop has a well-defined territory, which they defend from other groups. Despite their territorial nature, fighting over mates rarely occurs, but there is a high infanticide rate when a male leadership role is replaced or taken over. Adult colobus, especially males, make croaking roars that can resonate throughout the forest.
Where to see colobus in Uganda
This primate is probably the most widespread forest monkey in Uganda, occurring in most sizable forest patches and even in well-developed riparian woodland. You are even likely to see the black-and-white colobus monkey while taking a lazy walk in the Botanical gardens in Entebbe.
A keen eye will see the colobus in any forest while on safari in western Uganda.
The Rwenzori race of the closely related Angola colobus (Colobus angolensis) occurs alongside the black-and-white colobus in forested parts of the Rwenzori National Park.