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Colobus guereza


CITES: Appendix II (What is CITES?)
IUCN Red List: C. guereza: LC (What is Red List?)
Key: LC = Least concern
(Click on species name to see IUCN Red List entry, including detailed status assessment information.)

Colobus guereza occidentalis
C. g. occidentalis
Photo: Alain Houle

Guerezas are among the least threatened colobines, due to their propensity to travel on the ground as well as to use dry and gallery forest (Oates & Davies 1994a). Guerezas are one of the few primates that are generally considered able to cope with habitat degradation, are one of the primates which is least affected by it, and generally do well in degraded forests (Chapman et al. 2000; von Hippel et al. 2000; Fashing 2002). However, there are conflicting views on the effects of degradation on the species, even within the same site, with some researchers viewing population declines, while others noting increases (see von Hippel et al. 2000; Fashing 2002).


Threat: Human-Induced Habitat Loss and Degradation

Forest over-use and clearing for many uses leads to a decline in guereza numbers. Clearing of forest for firewood by locals contributes to population declines but commercial logging poses a larger threat. Such commercial uses include wood clearing for brewing beer, fuel, gin distillation, and for charcoal production (Chapman et al. 2007). Also, even if not cleared, there are a number of ways guereza habitat can be degraded. These include degradation due to, the cutting of trees for timber, charcoal, firewood, tools and other uses, the extraction of gold, livestock traffic, road building, agriculture, vandalization, poaching, extraction of plant foods, and the stripping of bark off of trees for medicine (Oates 1977b; von Hippel et al. 2000; Fashing 2004). However, guerezas sometimes respond positively to logging, and are sometimes more abundant and are found in higher densities in logged areas than unlogged, possibly due to an increase in preferred food trees after logging (Oates 1977b; Skorupa 1986; Oates & Davies 1994a; Plumptre & Reynolds 1994; Chapman et al. 2000). Complete forest clearance undoubtedly affects the species in a negative way and causes decreases in overall population. This was the case in western Uganda where the clearing of forest fragments caused a reduction in guereza numbers by over 50% over an eight year period (Chapman et al. 2007). In addition, sometimes forest is cleared for agriculture and replanted with coniferous trees which are unsuitable for guerezas.

Threat: Invasive Alien Species

Human activities can increase the concentration of elephants in guereza habitats, which occurred at Kabalega National Park, Uganda. In turn, high concentrations of elephants destroy guereza habitat and threaten populations (Oates 1977b).

Threat: Harvesting (hunting/gathering)

Hunting can also be a threat to guereza populations, but it is variable in its occurrence throughout the guereza range. Firearms as well as traditional weapons are used to hunt the species (Oates 1977b). In Gabon for example, hunted populations showed an 88% reduction in numbers versus unhunted populations (Lahm 2001). Elsewhere in its range, hunting is also common, as is the case in the northern areas of the Republic of Congo, where guerezas sold as bushmeat fetch between 4-9 USD (Eves & Ruggiero 2000). However, in Uganda, primates are not usually hunted for meat (Plumptre 2006). Historically, a large commercial trade in guereza skins has existed, especially during the 19th century but continued into recent times, often for fashion or the tourist trade (see Oates 1977 for a history). Not surprisingly, this represents a significant threat to the species.

Threat: Persecution

Crop-raiding by guerezas does occur, albeit at low levels (Naughton-Treves 1996; 1998). Thus, the potential for persecution as a result of conflict with humans does exist. Oates (1977b) comments that the killing of guerezas as crop-raiders could provide skins for commercial sale.

Threat: Changes in Native Species Dynamics

The African cherry tree (Prunus africana), a sometimes favored food for guerezas, has exhibited a notable decline across sub-Saharan Africa. While predominantly due to the harvesting of its bark for medicines, at least some of its deaths could be due to other factors, such as disease, insects, nutrient deficiency, or climate (Fashing 2004). The decline of this species negatively affects the guereza populations that rely upon it.





Content last modified: May 12, 2009

Written by Kurt Gron. Reviewed by Peter Fashing and Tara Harris.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2009 May 12. Primate Factsheets: Guereza (Colobus guereza) Conservation . <>. Accessed 2014 April 21.