The red-tailed monkey (Cercopithecus ascanius) is brownish in appearance with white cheek whiskers, a coppery tail and a distinctive white, heart-shaped patch on its nose, giving it a more descriptive alternative name of black-cheeked white-nosed monkey. It also has other names like red-tailed guenon, redtail monkey, or Schmidt’s guenon.
The red-tailed monkey is as its name suggests. It has a red colouration on the tail’s underside, and the reddish colour increases from the base to the tip.
Other features are characteristic of this primate, such as the white nose and cheeks amid black or dark grey body fur. Red-tailed monkeys also have huge, elastic cheeks, which they use to stash away food for later eating.
Sizes of their bodies range between individuals and the sexes as males are larger than females. Body length ranges from 12-24 inches (1 to 2 feet), without the tail length of about 35 inches, twice the body length. An adult can weigh about 4 kilos.
The Red-tailed monkey communicates using physical and vocal sounds to demonstrate social dominance, submissiveness, or greeting. A submissive monkey will make a soft, oscillating call to its elder. They also rub each other’s noses to greet and show affection.
Red-tailed monkeys display a stunned-stare with open mouths, raised eyebrows, and stretched forehead skin to communicate a threat. They also head-bob to show that they are being threatened.
The little primates are primarily fructivorous and omnivorous, complimenting their fruit diet with leaves, flowers, and insects when fruits are scarce. As they forage, these monkeys stash away their findings in the expandable cheeks of their mouths. The pouches hold a large amount of food they carry away and later feed in safe environments.
The red-tailed monkey is a social primate that forms groups of about 7 to 30 individuals and sometimes up to 200 individuals. A group can have one dominant male, several females and their offspring.
Group members generally stick together for life, except the males who leave when they reach maturity and form their own troops or depose a dominant male of another troop. The females help take care of all the young ones in the group.
Occasionally, groups will come together to share an abundance of food availability. An incredible primate scene I would live to witness.
This species is locally common in Uganda, with population densities of up to 60 individuals per kilometre.
It is found in moist lowland, submontane and montane forests, swamps, riverine and gallery forests, and forest mosaics. It occurs in secondary or regenerating forests, forest islands and plantations and prefers forest edges.
You can watch the red-tailed monkey in most forests in Uganda, including Kibale Forest, Bwindi Impenetrable, Semuliki and Queen Elizabeth National Parks. You will find them in Budongo, Mpanga and several other forest reserves across the country.
Red-tailed Monkey (Cercopithecus ascanius) has most recently been assessed for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2018 and it is listed as Least Concern for extinction.