Golden Monkey (Cercopithecus mitis kandti)
You can easily be able to guess that Golden monkey gets its name for its striking coloring. The tails of the Golden monkey are bright, vibrant, golden orange, as are its cheeks, and patches of its back and torso. This poses a sharp contrast to its jet-black legs and head for a visually stunning effect.
This primate is part of the family of Old World monkey, endemic to Central Africa, in the Virunga volcanoes and in Uganda can only be seen in Mgahinga National Park. In the past, the Golden monkey wasn’t recognized as separate species, being considered a subspecies of the Blue monkey. In fact, these two monkeys are closely related and very similar. The ongoing separation of forests has led to fragmentation of the Cercopithecus species range making them live in isolated populations, where they have adapted to local environment. As a result, the Golden monkey has diverged from the Blue monkey. This endangered animal is one of the eight subspecies of the Blue monkey.
Habits and Behavior
The Golden Monkey in numbers is currently estimated between 2000 and 4000 individuals and have been listed on the IUCN as endangered. They are highly social animals, forming groups of 30 – 80 individuals lead by an Alpha male. The group size varies with elevation; as a general rule, groups at higher elevations are smaller.
Females are constantly with the group to defend the territory, whereas males usually remain with the group temporarily, leaving it after a while. These monkeys are diurnal and arboreal. Their sleeping sites are located at tops of bamboo plants. When sleeping, Golden monkeys gather into smaller groups of 4 individuals on average.
Feeding areas are usually found in close proximity to their sleeping sites, so these animals take daily trips to forage. Primary forms of communication, used by these primates, are visual expressions and various vocalizations. Some of these vocalizations are used by males during confrontations or when defending their territories. Females of this species use a wide range of calls to keep unity of the group as well as alert community members of potential threats. Meanwhile, sub-adults are known to accompany mobbing behavior with certain calls. Additionally, young individuals may display submissiveness through vocalizations.
In addition to relying on bamboo for nutrition, the Golden monkey also uses bamboo to craft little homes. In an astounding feat of intelligence, Goldens actually weave multiple bamboo plants together to make “beds.” Unlike the mountain gorilla that builds a nest every night, the Golden’s will travel a bit during the day to feed, but return to these beds for rest night after night for a period of time.
Some golden monkey troops in Mgahinga National Park have been habituated for tourism and are currently available for tourism though don’t get as much attention as the mountain gorillas and chimpanzee in Uganda.
Golden Monkey tracking fees/permit in Uganda is currently (2020/21) at US $60 per person for foreigners and UGX 40,000 for EAC nationals. Semi-habituated troops are also available for the Golden Monkey Habituation Experience that takes more than 4 hours or full day and costs US$100 per person for foreigners and UGX 100,000 for EAC nationals.
The golden monkey tracking permit can be obtained from UWA office or your licensed and trusted tour operator.