The Patas monkey (aka hussar monkey) is one of the terrestrial primates restricted to the dry savanna of north-central Africa. You will likely see it on a safari game drive in Kidepo Valley and Murchison Falls National Park. They are easy to spot because they prefer sitting on the branches or raised savannah ground like anthills to avoid predator surprises.
The patas could be confused with the Vervet monkey, but it has a lankier build, a light reddish-brown coat, and a black stripe above the eyes (the vervet is monkey greyer and has a black face mask).
Patas monkeys are a slender species coloured red-brown dorsally and grey-white ventrally. You can identify it by the black brow ridge, nose and the white area around the mouth.
Young patas monkeys have a black nose changing to a lighter colour as they approach sexual maturity, and of course, you can miss the bright blue scrotum.
During pregnancy, the facial hair of female patas monkeys noticeably lightens, potentially as a result of changing hormone levels.
Adult males are bigger than females, weighing 12.4 kg and measuring 600 millimetres in length, excluding the tail. Adult females weigh about 6.5 and can be about 490 millimetres in width. Patas monkeys can live for nearly 22 years in the wild.
They have adapted for life on the ground with slender bodies and long limbs morphologically suited for terrestrial movement and speed rather than arboreal movement.
Patas monkeys are quadrupedal (use all fours for walking), and their terrestrial locomotion is rapid for a primate monkey, with a maximum speed of approximately 55 km per hour. Their exceptionally long forelimbs facilitate this high running speed, allowing them to escape from predators easily.
In addition, they will occasionally assume a bipedal stance when alarmed and can move on two’s if carrying an item in both hands. They curve down the tail while on the ground but will raise it when on a narrow surface such as a tree branch, most likely for balance. The tail also performs as a brace and controls the monkey’s descent.
In Uganda, the patas monkey is only found in the extreme north, and you can easily see it on the plains in Kidepo Valley and Murchison Falls National Parks, as well as Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve.