Besides the popular mountain gorillas and chimpanzees, Uganda is famous for other different species of primates, one of which are the Patas monkeys. Many of us have heard of other monkey species but are not very familiar with these exceptional primates found in the Pearl of Africa-Uganda. Undertaking a safari to Uganda will introduce you to these unique animals but firstly, the following are the brief facts about them;
Patas monkeys are scientifically referred as Erythrocebus patas and are sometimes known as Red Guenon, Military monkeys or Hussar monkeys. These primates occupy the dry savannah landscapes of Tropical Africa. They grow up to 90 centimeters tall and weigh between four and thirteen kilograms (8.8 to 28.6 pounds).
Their habitats range from open savannah plains to the semi-arid regions and not common in the thick woodlands. It is for this reason that you will encounter them in the Northern Uganda National Parks such as Murchison Falls and Kidepo Valley National Parks.
They live in large groups made up of at least 60 members with one dominant male (actually only one male). Mature males always leave their birth groups at the age of four years which is also the time they reach sexual maturity. These later join the female groups during the breeding period hence become their permanent family.
These exceptional primates spend most of their day on the ground and utilize their long and strong legs to jump and run for as fast as 55 kilometers per hour thus making them the fastest primates on earth.
There is significant degree of sexual dimorphism among these primates whereby adult males weigh averagely 12 kilograms while their female counterparts weight around 6.5 kilograms. The tails of the former measure from 600 to 875 millimeters whereas the latter measure 490 millimeters on average.
Female patas monkeys are nearly twice smaller than the size of their male counterparts and are less brightly colored.
These monkeys are omnivorous (feed on both animal and plant material). Their diet mainly comprises of small reptiles like lizards, insects, eggs of birds, tree gum, acacia fruits, seasonal fruits, flowers, galls and leaves among others.
Patas monkeys are vulnerable to attacks from predators like lions, leopards and cheetahs but their young ones are attacked by African wild cats and dogs, hyenas, big snakes and different birds of prey. Unfortunately, humans also hunt them for bush meat and research specimen.
Gestational period of the Patas monkeys is 5 months and reach sexual maturity at 3-5 years. Their life span is 21 years in the wild and more in captivity. On average, they give birth to one baby (infant) and wean for approximately 6 months after which they tend for themselves.
Interestingly, these primates have a number of alarm calls to warn fellow family members of any predators. Surprisingly, different alarms are used by different members of the family (such as juveniles, infants, adult males and adult females) and particular alarm calls are special for different kinds of predators. You will be surprised at the uniqueness of these animals because unlike other primates, Patas monkeys seldom take refuge from predators because of their open habitats thus instead attack them especially Jackals and wildcats.
Unlike other primates like gorillas and Chimpanzees, troops of Patas monkeys are led by the females who protect their territories from intrusion from other groups. Much as the males don’t get involved in conflicts, they make eye-splitting sounds to intimidate the rival troops.
They are terrestrial-are physically adapted to spend most of their lives on the ground. Their small bodies and long limbs make them suited for terrestrial locomotion and speed instead of jumping on tree branches like other species of monkeys.