Eastern Black and White Colobus Fact File
The eastern black and white colobus has a body covered with long back fur. Around the face is a border of white fur. This runs around the hairless, grey face which has a flat, wide muzzle. Running across the shoulders and down the back is a ‘cape’ or mantle of white fur. A white stripe runs along the thigh.
Albino variants of the eastern black and white colobus exist. This trait appears to be more frequent at higher altitudes.
Some small populations exist which are almost entirely white.
Their eyes are colored brown.
On their rear they have large pads known as “ischial callosities” which provide comfort when sitting for long periods.
Eastern black and white colobus monkeys lack thumbs which scientists believe helps them to move quicker through the trees.
They have a long tail relative to the body size. This is colored black along most of its length and ends with a large white tuft. This tail can measure between 52 and 100cm (20.5-39.4in) long.
The head and body length of the eastern black and white colobus is between 52 and 70cm (20.5 and 27.5in) long. Their weight varies between 7.8 and 13.5kg (17 and 29.8lbs).
The eastern black and white colobus is a herbivore which feeds mostly on leaves. They also eat fruit, bark, seeds and blossoms.
To allow them to digest the leaves which make up much of their diet they have a multi-chambered stomach which works to break down the cellulose.
Water is provided by drinking drops of dew and drinking water that has pooled in tree hollows.
Africa is the native home of the eastern black and white colobus. These include Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
Their populations is fragmented in to separate areas. As such 7 subspecies are recognized.
They live in a range of forests including swamp, gallery, riverine, montane and secondary forest. Eastern black and white colobus can also be found in savanna woodlands.
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Breeding occurs year round though births are typically timed so that the infant is weaning at the time when food is most abundant.
Males will mate with all the females in their group. Females initiate breeding attempts by tongue-smacking. Breeding may also occur with members of other group.
Gestation lasts 6 months. Following this a single infant will be born. At birth the infant is covered with entirely white fur and they have pink or red skin. Their adult coloration will grow in over the first 3-4 months of life.
Infants start their life by clinging to their mother’s fur and being carried by her on the belly. Eastern black and white colobus exhibit a behavior called alloparenting where the infant is passed between members of the group. Infants may be suckled by another female who is caring for her own infant.
The infant will first sample solid food at 8-9 weeks old. Weaning occurs slightly before the 1 year old mark.
Females typically breed once every 22 months.
Incidents of infanticide have been recorded within eastern black and white colobus groups. This may be undertaken by other groups or by males which have recently taken over a group.
A female colobus will remain in her natal group while the males will leave and join another group or form their own.
Females are sexually mature at 6 years old while females mature earlier at 4 years old.
Eastern black and white colobus form a group headed by a dominant male with a number of females. A group may include 8-15 members. Females remain in the group they are born in for life. A new male may come in and take over the group at times.
To reinforce bonding in their group members will groom one another.
Groups maintain a territory and they will not tolerate other groups entering this area outside of a few rare occasions. The male will leap, roar, chase and fight intruders out of their territory.
They are active by day. Almost half the day will be spent resting while the remainder is spent foraging.
Most of their time is spent in the trees. This is where they will sleep. Typically one member of the group is always awake to keep a lookout for predators.
They make a range of vocalizations. The main one is a roar performed by males at dawn and dusk. Competing males from neighboring groups perform these roars at one another. They also snort, purr, honk and scream.
Predators and Threats
The eastern black and white colobus faces predation from eagle, leopards and chimpanzees.
Some colobus are hunted for their skin to be used in the fur trade. They are also threatened by habitat loss.
Colobus is a word meaning “mutilated one.” This is in reference to the lack of a thumb.
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