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When the 18th century French naturalist Goerge-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon obtained the first specimens of these monkeys, they were mistakenly labelled as having come from Mangabe in Madagascar, there are of course no monkeys in Madagascar, but he wasn't aware of this and assumed that they really had come from Mangabe and decided to call them mangabeys, until they could establish what the native name for them was, the name stuck. It was originally assumed that all of the various species were closely related and are thus all called mangabeys, but in fact recent genetic evidence, has shown that there are two distinct groups, baboon-mangabeys more closely related to baboons and geladas and drill-mangabeys more closely related to drills and mandrills. Originally there were thought to be just two species of baboon mangabeys the Black and the Grey-cheeked, however recently the late Australian scientist Colin Groves, a bit of a specialist on primate taxonomy, split the Black in to two species and the Grey-cheeked in to four species.  


Baboon-mangabeys/Crested Mangabeys


Black Mangabey (Lophocebus aterrimus)

Opdenbosch’s Mangabey (Lophocebus opdenboschi)


Grey-cheeked Mangabey (Lophocebus albigena)

Uganda Mangabey (Lophocebus ugandae)

Osman Hill’s or Rusty-mantled Mangabey (Lophocebus osmani)

Johnston’s Mangabey (Lophocebus johnstoni)


Drill-mangabeys/White-eyelid Mangabeys


Sooty Mangabey (Cercocebus atys)

White-naped Mangabey (Cercocebus lunulatus)

Red-capped Mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus)

Golden-bellied Mangabey (Cercocebus chrysogaster)

Agile Mangabey (Cercocebus agilis)

Tana River Mangabey (Cercocebus galeritus)

Sanje Mangabey (Cercocebus sanje)




Kipunji (Rungwecebus kipunji)


In Tanzania in 2003 a team of scientists led by Tim Davenport, in the forests of Mt Rungwe in the Southern Highlands, discovered what they initially believed was a new species of mangabey, completely independently in 2004, Trevor Jones and Richard Laizzer observed what proved to be the same new species of monkey, in the Ndundulu Forest in the Udzungwa Mountains. Knowing that these new monkeys must be very rare, they chose to name it without first obtaining a specimen, in 2005 they called it the Highland Mangabey and gave it the scientific name Lophocebus kipunji thinking it was a relative of the Grey-cheeked Mangabeys. Later a local hunter on Mt Rungwe killed a monkey, this was obtained as the first specimen, genetic analysis showed that it was not in fact really a mangabey at all, but was even more closely related to the Papio baboons, in 2006 it was then placed in its own entirely new genus Rungwecebus, meaning Mt Rungwe monkey, the species name kipunji, is the local name for these monkeys in the Rungwe area.


To see a Kipunji in the wild and certainly to get any photos would be a challenge and require a lot of luck, just seeing one, even if it’s only a glimpse is not impossible, your best chance would be to visit the Livingstone Forest in Kitulo National Park in the Southern Highlands. The population in the Ndundulu Forest is very small, this forest is high up on the western side of the Udzungwa Mts in the Kilombero Forest Reserve outside the national park, (why it still hasn’t been made part of UMNP, I don’t know). Not many tourists go into the Ndundulu Forest, except perhaps for birders looking for the Udzungwa partridge, this bird was first discovered by a group of Danish ornithologists in 1991, the Danish scientists had been camped in Ndundulu, for months studying the birds. During this time, they in fact briefly glimpsed Kipunjis on three occasions, however, they assumed that what they had seen were just Sanje Mangabeys, they had no idea, that they had actually spotted a then entirely unknown monkey species. It was however, their report on their time in the forest, that led Trevor Jones to visit Ndundulu, to look for new populations of Sanje Mangabeys, and this led to his discovery of the Kipunjis there. The fact that the Danes only caught brief glimpses of the monkeys, despite being there for a long time, clearly indicates how hard they are to see there. In Udzungwa National Park Sanje Mangabeys have been habituated, so that tourists as well as scientists can observe them, perhaps in time a troop of Kipunjis will be habituated in the Livingstone Forest in Kitulo NP, allowing tourists to be reasonably certain of seeing and even photographing them. Kitulo NP which is actually known mostly for its montane grassland and wildflowers can be reached very easily from Mbeya, although it’s a fairly long way, you can also get there from Iringa, so you could go from Mikumi, or UMNP or Ruaha down to Kitulo by road.


If you have any photos or videos of any of the mangabey species or of the kipunji please add them to this thread.


Edited by inyathi
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The Grey-cheeked or Western Grey-cheeked Mangabey (Lophocebus alibgena) occurs from the west coast of Central Africa east to the Congo River, it's probably most easily seen in Gabon, can also be seen in southern Cameroon, Congo Rep. and southwestern CAR. I had a rather distant view of these monkeys from the WCS Langoue Research Camp in Ivindo National Park and another rather distant from the viewing platform at Langoue Bai, to give an idea of how far away they were, the following photo was taken with my Canon EOS 20D and a 500mm lens with a 1.4X converter attached.  



Besides the two obvious monkeys in the middle, there's another right over on the left and one near the top right corner


This next shot is a crop of the same photo



Grey-cheeked Mangabeys at Langoue Bai in Ivindo National Park in Gabon by inyathi, on Flickr





Crops of a mangabey in the far left of the same tree




The IUCN redlist does not as yet recognise these splits, so they still regard the Grey-cheeked Mangabey as a single species, thus they don't have range maps for each of these newly recognised species. The following map therefore shows the range of the Grey-cheeked Mangabey as a single species, the distribution maps in Mammals of Africa and the Kingdon Field Guide do show the different species, although he hasn't illustrated the different species, so there is still just one illustration. 


Range map

Edited by inyathi
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It is stated on one or two websites that the Uganda Mangabey (Lophocebus ugandae) is Uganda’s only endemic monkey, but it’s not in actual fact endemic to Uganda, in the south of Uganda an isolated population occurs in a small area of forest close to the eastern shore of Lake Victoria and this forest extends over the border into Northwestern Tanzania, where it is protected in the Minziro Forest Reserve, so the mangabeys also occur in Tanzania but only in Minziro FR. The main population occurs further north in suitable forest habitat from the northeastern shore of Lake Victoria west to the eastern side of the Albertine Rift (the western branch of the Rift Valley).


The following science paper by Colin Groves on these mangabeys, was clearly published before the discovery that there are Uganda mangabeys in Minziro FR in Tanzania, it includes illustrations of the four species. 


The Endemic Uganda Mangabey, Lophocebus ugandae, and Other Members of the Albigena-Group (Lophocebus)


The best place to see the Uganda Mangabey, I would think is Kibale Forest and Bigodi Swamp, although I didn’t see any on my last visit to Bigodi, but I did when I first went there.





Uganda Mangabey eating figs Kibale Forest NP







Edited by inyathi
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The Johnston’s mangabey (Lophocebus johnstoni) occurs from the western side of the Albertine Rift throughout most of eastern DRC and across northern DRC to the Congo River, it also occurs in the west of Rwanda and Burundi and in Semuliki NP in Uganda, which is the easternmost extension of the great Ituri Rainforest in the DRC.


26096555097_265516d210_o.jpg m


Johnston's Mangabey




When I visited Uganda, I should have been aware that of the fact that the grey-cheeked mangabey had been split into four species, but I wasn't, so when I posted the first of these two photos and the three in the previous post in my trip report Where the Rainforest Meets the Savannah: Uganda February 2018 , I just labelled them grey-cheeked mangabeys. These Johnston's Mangabeys were seen from the main road that runs along the boundary of Semuliki National Park. 


The final species which I’ve not seen, Osman Hill’s or the rusty-mantled mangabey (Lophocebus osmani) only occurs in a very small isolated area on the Nigeria/Cameroon border.

Edited by inyathi
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The Red-capped Mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus) sometimes called the Collared Mangabey is endemic to the west coast of Central Africa and Nigeria, from the vicinity of Lagos in the northwest south down the coast to Gabon and over the border into Conkouati-Douli NP in the Congo Republic. Its current distribution is much patchier than that shown on the map, since these monkeys are now only common in areas where hunting pressure is low.


Range map


Loango National Park in Gabon is certainly one of the best places to look for this mangabey, Tsam-Tsam Ecolodge near Lambarene would I believe be another good place to see them, but I’ve not been there.



Red-capped Mangabey beside the Rembo Ngowe River in Loango National Park in Gabon by inyathi, on Flickr









At Loango Lodge

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  • 1 year later...

Prompted by @Pictus Safaris ‘s report posted earlier today East Africa Extravaganza I thought it was really about time I added my Sanje Mangabey shots to this thread, since I did after all start this thread exactly two years ago, I’d just forgotten about it:rolleyes: , I have posted some or all of them before, in a brief trip report on the Udzungwas and another report on the Udungwas in the Parks forum, the following is almost exactly the same information I’ve posted before, in those threads, I don’t know quite how much has changed with regard to going to see the Sanje Mangabeys, as this visit to UMNP was back in 2012.


The Sanje mangabey


Back in 1979 two researchers, Katherine Homewood and Alan Rodgers were surveying what was then the Mwanihana Forest Reserve, which is now part of the Udzungwa Mountains NP. While attempting to study the endemic Udzungwa red colobus up at Sanje Falls, Ms Homewood had been forced to retire to her tent, suffering from malaria, in her feverish state she heard a strange whooping monkey call, that she recognised as the call of a mangabey. These monkeys have calls that are quite different from the calls of either colobus or guenons, however, there were not supposed to be any mangabeys in the Udzungwas, the nearest known population of mangabeys was on the Tana River in Kenya over 460 miles away. Her first thought was that she must be hallucinating due to her fever, it then occurred to her that perhaps her research partner, had obtained a recording of some mangabeys and was playing a practical joke. However, when she asked her local guide, he said that this was the call of the ng’olaga and expressed some surprise that she didn’t know about these monkeys. Alan Rodgers then went out in to the forest with their guide to see a troop of ng’olagas, when they found the monkeys, he could see that they were indeed a type of mangabey. Their guide then informed them, that some children in Sanje Village were actually keeping a young orphaned ng’olaga as a pet; they immediately rushed to the village to find this animal. Two years later in 1981, the discovery of this new monkey which they named the Sanje crested mangabey was announced to the world, originally classified along with the Agile Mangabey as a subspecies of the Tana Mangabey (Cercocebus galeritus) it is now recognised as a full species Cercocebus sanjei.


If you have a copy of the first edition of The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals you will see from both the illustration and the description that the Sanje Mangabey has a distinctive and rather odd-looking crest. In actual fact they don’t look quite like that at all, that Kingdon portrayed them like this was due to a slightly unfortunate, but amusing misunderstanding. To keep its long fringe out of its eyes the children in Sanje Village had taken to cutting their pet monkey’s hair, after its discovery the orphaned Sanje mangabey was removed and taken to the animal sanctuary at the Mount Meru Game Lodge near Arusha, to live out its life in captivity. When Jonathan Kingdon went to see the young mangabey, its hair had not yet grown back, unaware that it had been given a haircut, he assumed that this was what the Sanje mangabey normally looked like. The illustration and the description of the Sanje mangabey in his book were based on the sketches he made of this animal. The illustration in the second edition and in The Mammals of Africa is basically the same, just with a proper head of hair, instead of a strange haircut.   


The Sanje Mangabey is one of the most endangered monkeys in Africa there are perhaps just 1,300 left, divided between two separate populations, the largest roughly 60% live in the Mwanihana Forest inside UMNP the rest live further down the mountains towards Ifakara in the unconnected Udzungwa Scarp Forest. Unfortunately, conservationists were not able to get the Udzungwa Scarp Forest included in the park and this population is severely threatened. Sanje mangabeys are partially terrestrial; they spend a large part of their lives on the ground which makes them extremely vulnerable to hunting, especially with dogs.


Doubtless as a result of hunting, the Sanje mangabeys have always been quite shy and difficult to see, visitors to UMNP were more likely to hear the calls of these animals, while on the way to or from Sanje Falls than actually see them. If you were lucky enough to see some, it would most likely just be a brief glimpse. Certainly, when I first visited the park just a few years after it opened, I was able to get reasonable views of the Udzungwa red and Angola pied colobus and the Sykes’s monkeys, but I never saw a mangabey, though I’m reasonably sure I heard some, albeit very distantly. Nowadays enough tourists visit UMNP, that the more common monkeys have become very used to people and can be seen very easily around the HQ at Mang’ula, on the main trails and in the edge of the forest. The mangabeys tend to stay a bit further inside the forest, however, in recent years, researchers have been habituating two troops of these monkeys one in the Sanje Valley and the other in the Njokamoni area and since 2007 it has been possible to go and visit them.



Sanje Mangabey, Udzungwa Mountains National Park in Tanzania by inyathi, on Flickr



Mangabeys typically carry their tails looped up over their bodies like this 















Njokamoni Falls and Sanje mangabeys 












Edited by inyathi
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Pictus Safaris

Thanks for posting @inyathi, a really interesting insight into the history of a fascinating mammal. 


The amusing anecdote about the 'crest' of the mangabey has me wondering about how a naturalist might describe me if I were discovered after a few days in the bush. No doubt being described as 'crested' would be the least of my worries!



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@Pictus SafarisThanks Tom, I really hope the lucky folks on your trip get good views of some Kipunjis, the best I can offer is the following video, which I'm sure you've seen, but I thought would be an appropriate edition to this thread, in lieu of any photos



I have seen quite a lot of monkeys now, I wouldn't know how many genera, I've not worked that out, but I'm sure it's not a fraction of the number that Russ Mittermeier, has seen, this video does suggest that seeing the Kipunji isn't that big of a challenge, not likely that much more of a challenge than seeing the Sanje Mangabeys. 



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