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The patas monkey also called the red hussar or military monkey, because its coat was thought to be reminiscent of the jackets that light cavalrymen known as hussars wore slung over their shoulder. The patas is unusual for being an almost entirely terrestrial monkey, they generally live in sparsely wooded savannas and rather than take refuge in trees as most monkeys would, they run from danger, relying on their long legs and athletic build, they can run at up to 55 kilometres an hour or 34.2 miles an hour, making them the world’s fastest monkey.  Patas are distributed across the Sahel region from Senegal to western Ethiopia down into northern Uganda, elsewhere in East Africa there are isolated populations in central and southern Kenya and in northern Tanzania. In West Africa another isolated population occurs in the Sahara in the Air Mountains of Niger. The number of subspecies is disputed, some say none, some say three of even four, those living in the Air Mountains are sometimes considered a separate subspecies, but the latter animals do not differ much from other patas in West Africa, save for being generally a bit smaller, hence the Mammals of Africa does not recognise them as a valid subspecies.  Back in 1862 a second species of patas was identified in the Blue Nile Valley region of Ethiopia and Sudan, however, it was decided in 1927 that this species was not valid, that there is only one species of patas, the Mammals of Africa and the Kingdon Field Guide list just a single species.


However, an Italian Scientist, Spartaco Gippoliti was reassessing that patas monkey for the IUCN Primate Specialist Group, he had another look at the patas monkeys of the Blue Nile Valley and determined that they are in fact a different species, as had been originally thought, the existence of this second species of patas was announced in 2018. It has very restricted range in northwestern Ethiopia and southwest Sudan in and around the Blue Nile Valley, the IUCN Red List website does not recognise this new species yet, so their range map just shows the range of the patas when it was considered a single species, from the map, I would guess that the Blue Nile patas occurs in Dinder NP in Sudan and the adjoining Alatash NP in Ethiopia, where the boundary between the two species is though, I don’t know. The main difference seems to be that the Blue Nile species has a much more pronounced white moustache, that forms handlebars, it has no black line from the eyes to the ears and noticeably doesn’t have a white nose, but for its moustache, its face is all black. 


150 years after being discovered, African monkey with handlebar moustache becomes its own species


Thus, the species and subspecies are as follows


Common patas (Erythrocebus patas)

Western patas (E. p. patas)

Eastern patas (E. p. pyrrhonotus)

Southern patas (E. p. baumstarkii)


Blue Nile patas (Erythrocebus poliophaeus)


If you have any photos or videos of patas monkeys please add them.



Edited by inyathi
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I’ve not seen southern patas this subspecies is now very rare and only three small isolated populations survive in northern Tanzania, one in the Serengeti principally in the west, one to the west of Arusha and one to the north in West Kilimanjaro. The Eastern patas occurs in southern and central Kenya, northern and eastern Uganda north of the Nile up into South Sudan and Sudan, west through the far north of the DRC, eastern CAR to southeast Chad. The western patas occurs from western Chad and CAR across the savanna regions of West Africa to the Atlantic coast of Senegambia with an isolated Saharan population in the Air Mountains of Niger. I had hoped to get good views of western patas in Mole NP in northern Ghana, but I only managed to get a very distant view from the Mole Motel. The only patas I have decent photos of are eastern patas. 



Eastern patas monkey by the Salamat in Zakouma National Park in Chad by inyathi, on Flickr



Edited by inyathi
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Murchison Falls Uganda near the delta - this should be Estern Patas too.






I don't have a photo but we saw a small horde of patas in Ennedi (Northeast Chad). I'm not sure which subspecies this is than could be?  

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@offshorebirder Thanks to your comment, I’ve just realised that I made a slight, but not insignificant mistake, I actually copied the 55mph from something I wrote about patas in my first Zakouma trip report and had then repeated in my second report, I should have thought is that really right, because I’ve just looked up Kingdon’s East African Mammals and discovered my silly mistake, it’s 55kph not mph oops :rolleyes:, so in mph that’s only 34.2, that's still fast, I will now edit my first post to correct it and my Zakouma report.


Patas will use trees as vantage points to keep look out, but then when they spot a large predator, they will descend and make a run for it, this seems like odd behaviour, as you’d think it would be safer to stay in the tree, but some of the places they live, the trees can be quite widely spaced apart, so I guess if you sound the alarm and then stay put, you could end up trapped. The rest of the group foraging on the ground below, could be fairly spread out, they will likely have more chance running away, than trying to get to your tree, better just to put as much distance as possible, between yourself and the predator/s. If you’re faced with a leopard, you might not be safe if you stayed in the tree anyway, if it’s lions or wild dogs perhaps, and they lie down under the tree then you are seriously stuck there. Patas while long-legged are still fairly small and quite well camouflaged, if the grass is long, at least the paler females and young are, so running does make sense, once the alarm has been raised, they may be able to get far enough away without being seen. It probably makes it easier for them to regroup and stay together as well, due to their preference for living in lightly wooded savanna, natural selection clearly favoured animals, with a more long-legged cheetah like build, than is the case with any of the forest monkeys.  



Eastern patas monkey by the Salamat in Zakouma National Park in Chad by inyathi, on Flickr





@Botswanadreams Thanks nice shots, I think the patas in Ennedi would still be eastern, it seems that the middle of Chad is a bit of a dividing line between eastern and western subspecies of various different species, I hadn’t paid too much attention to the different subspecies until now, so I hadn’t really taken in that the patas in Zakouma were eastern patas.



Edited by inyathi
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  • 1 month later...

The north bank of the Nile in Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda is the best place in East Africa to see patas.




Male eastern patas, Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda



Edited by inyathi
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  • 4 weeks later...

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