Colobus vellerosusursine colobus

Geographic Range

Colobus vellerosus is currently found in six countries throughout West Africa; Benin, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, and Cote d’Ivoire. ("Primate Info et", 2008; Oates, et al., 2008)


Ursine colobus monkeys are forest dwellers inhabiting lowland forest, deciduous gallery forest, and savanna forest up to 350 meters elevation above sea level. (Estes, 1991; Oates, et al., 2008)

  • Range elevation
    350 (high) m
    1148.29 (high) ft

Physical Description

Colobus vellerosus was once considered part of the Colobus polykomos group, but has been considered a distinct species since 1983 (Primate Info Net, 2008). Of the five species of colobus, Colobus vellerosus is distinctive, with predominantly black fur and no white mantle (Fleagle, 1998). The face is black and naked and surrounded by a thick white outer ring of fur. Colobus vellerosus is also characterized by white areas on the thighs that vary in width and length. As in other species of colobus, infants are born with an all white fur coat, which starts to turn black at around three months of age. Also as in other species of colobus, C. vellerous has obsolete thumbs which are just short nubs with nails on them. Which is thought to be an adaptation for better movement through trees. The fingers are long and take the form of a hook to improve grip when grabbing onto branches (Sai, et al., 2006). In comparison to other species of colobus, they have slender bodies and ischial callosities, a hard thickened area of skin on the buttocks that allows comfortable sitting on branches (Estes, 1991). The tail of Colobus vellerosus differs from other species in coloration. Where most other species have predominantly black tails with a bushy white tip, Colobus vellerosus has an all white tail that is usually longer than the body. The weight range is 9.9 to 10.3 kg for males and 8.3 to 8.7 kg in females. Body length is 61 to 66 cm in males and 61 to 64 cm in females (Primate Info Net, 2008). Colobus species are distinguished from other Cercopithecinae by their lack of cheek pouches and their large salivary glands (Fleagle, 1998). They have highly evolved large stomach that is used in the process of breaking down cellulose. The stomach always contains undigested food and can constitute up to a quarter of an adult’s weight (Estes, 1991). ("Primate Info et", 2008; Estes, 1991; Fleagle, 1998; Sai, et al., 2006)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    8.3 to 10.3 kg
    18.28 to 22.69 lb
  • Range length
    61 to 61 cm
    24.02 to 24.02 in


As in other species of colobus monkeys, Colobus vellerosus is polygynous. There seem to be no physical characteristics that make it evident when a female is in estrus (Teichroeb and Sicotte, 2008). ("Primate Info et", 2008; Teichroeb and Sicotte, 2008)

There is relatively little information on reproduction in Colobus vellerosus. Ursine colobus monkeys give birth to a single infant. Mating is evidently not strictly seasonal as births occur year round. More births occur around the rainy season due to abundance of vegetation, which allows the mother to provide plenty of nutrients to her infant (Teichroeb and Sicotte, 2008). Breeding occurs in 20 month intervals and gestation is about 5 to 6 months (Teichroeb and Sicotte, 2008). Time to weaning is not reported, but is from 8 to 15 months in other colobus monkeys. Females mature by four years of age and males by six years of age. ("Primate Info et", 2008; Teichroeb and Sicotte, 2008)

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding occurs in 20 month intervals.
  • Breeding season
    Births can occur year round, but are concentrated in the wet season.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 (low)
  • Range gestation period
    5 to 6 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    4 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    6 years

Female ursine colobus monkeys nurse, protect, and care for their young to independence. Other members of the group care for and handle infants as well. Members of the group handle infants carefully, but there is still a high mortality rate among infants (Brent et al., 2007). Females remain in their natal group. Male parental care is not reported in Colobus vellerosus. (Brent, et al., 2007; Teichroeb, et al., 2007)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • post-independence association with parents


Longevity in Colobus vellerosus is not reported in the literature. However, other colobus monkeys can live into their 20's in the wild and to about 36 years in captivity. Infant mortality rates are reported to be high. (Brent, et al., 2007)


Ursine colobus monkeys are diurnal and arboreal, coming down from trees occasionally when feeding. The social behavior of Colobus vellerosus is like that of many polygynous groups, with each group consistig of related females, juveniles, and a territorial male. Males are extremely territorial and are the ones that disperse upon reaching sexual maturity. Groups have been known to accept other males, but multi-male groups are quite rare. (Teichroeb, et al., 2007)

Home Range

Home range sizes are not reported for Colobus vellerosus.

Communication and Perception

Ursine colobus monkeys are social primates and have many vocal, tactile, and visual forms of communication. All Colobus species use a roaring call to advertise territory and location, it resembles a low "rur, rur, rur" noise (Fleagle, 1998). Colobus monkeys also have alarm calls that alert group members when predators have been seen. Alarm calls are characterized as "snorting" and are made by all members of the group except infants. As in other primates, mutual grooming is important to social cohesion ursine colobus monkeys and pheromones and scents aid in recognizing sexual state, age, and status of individuals. ("Primate Info et", 2008; Fleagle, 1998)

Food Habits

Ursine colobus monkeys are mainly folivorous and have a diet that consists of immature leaves and seeds. They also occasionally eat fruits, insects, and termite clay (Primate Info Net, 2008). ("Primate Info et", 2008)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit


Some predators of ursine colobus monkeys are large raptors, such as crowned hawk eagles (Stephanoaetus coronatus), leopards (Panthera pardus), and humans. Humans threaten these monkeys through habitat destruction, forest fragmentation, and hunting for meat and fur (Sai et al., 2006). Subsistence farming, commercial agriculture development, and selective logging have all contributed to the decline of this species (Marteinson, et al., 2005). (Sai, et al., 2006)

Ecosystem Roles

Ursine colobus monkeys are prey to some top predators in their forest ecosystems. They may also help to disperse the seeds of forest trees that they eat.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Ursine colobus monkeys are hunted for their fur and meat. They may play a role in forest regeneration through seed dispersal.

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Colobus vellerosus on humans. Like all primates, they may transmit disease to humans, but this has not been reported in C. vellerosus and there is little contact between their populations and humans.

Conservation Status

Populations of ursine colobus monkeys have declined throughout their relatively small range. These monkeys are threatened by habitat destruction and are hunted regularly by a growing human population. They are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, protected under Appendix II of CITES, and are protected under Class A of the African convention. Populations have become rare even in national parks and declines of 30% in the last 30 years have been estimated. These are now considered rare monkeys in Togo, Benin, Nigeria, and Ghana. (Oates, et al., 2008)

Other Comments

Colobus vellerosus is also known by the common names: white-thighed colobus, Geoffroy's black-and-white colobus, white-thighed black-and-white colobus. This species was previously considered a part of the Colobus polykomos group. (Oates, et al., 2008)


Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Shannon Walker (author), Michigan State University, Pamela Rasmussen (editor, instructor), Michigan State University.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
dominance hierarchies

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


an animal that mainly eats fruit


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


having more than one female as a mate at one time


"many forms." A species is polymorphic if its individuals can be divided into two or more easily recognized groups, based on structure, color, or other similar characteristics. The term only applies when the distinct groups can be found in the same area; graded or clinal variation throughout the range of a species (e.g. a north-to-south decrease in size) is not polymorphism. Polymorphic characteristics may be inherited because the differences have a genetic basis, or they may be the result of environmental influences. We do not consider sexual differences (i.e. sexual dimorphism), seasonal changes (e.g. change in fur color), or age-related changes to be polymorphic. Polymorphism in a local population can be an adaptation to prevent density-dependent predation, where predators preferentially prey on the most common morph.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


2008. "Primate Info et" (On-line). Colobus vellerosus. Accessed September 03, 2008 at

Brent, L., J. Teichroeb, P. Sicotte. 2007. Preliminary assessment of natal attraction and infant handling in wild Colobus vellerosus. American Journal of Primatology, 70/1: 101-105.

Estes, R. 1991. The Behavior Guide to African Mammals. California: University of California Press.

Fleagle, J. 1998. Primate Adaptation and Evolution. San Diego: Academic Press.

Oates, J., S. Gippoliti, C. Groves. 2008. "Colobus vellerosus" (On-line). 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed February 17, 2009 at

Sai, T., C. Mather, P. Sicotte. 2006. Traditonal taboos i biological conservation: the case of Colobus vellerosus at the Boabeng Fiema monkey sanctuary, Central Ghana. Social Science Information, 45/2: 285-310.

Teichroeb, J., S. Marteinson, P. Sicotte. 2004. Individuals' behaviors following dye-marking in wild black and white colobus (Colobus velerosus):. American Journal of Primatology, 65/2: 197-203.

Teichroeb, J., P. Sicotte. 2008. Social correlates of fecal testosterone in male ursincolobus monkeys (Colobus vellerosus): the effect of male reproductive competition in aseasonal breeders.. Hormones and Behavior, 54/3: 417-423.

Teichroeb, J., P. Sicotte, T. Sai. 2007. Aspects of male competition in Colobus vellerosus: Preliminary data on male and female loud calling and infant deaths after a takeover. International Journal of Primatology, 28/3: 627-636.

Wong, S., P. Sicotte. 2008. Population size and density of Colobus vellerosus at the Boabeng Fiema monkey sanctuary and surrounding forest fragments in Ghana. Journal of Primatology, 68/5: 465-476.