Life span: >30 years (captive)
Total population: Unknown
Regions: Equatorial Africa
Gestation: 158 days
Height: 61.5 cm (M), 57.6 cm (F)
Weight: 9.3 to 13.5 kg (M), 7.8 to 9.2 kg (F)
Species: C. guereza
Subspecies: C. g. caudatus, C. g. dodingae, C. g. kikuyuensis, C. g. matschiei, C. g. occidentalis, C. g. percivali
Other names: C. guereza: C. abyssinicus, guereza, Abyssinan black-and white
colobus, Abyssinian colobus, eastern black-and-white colobus, guereza colobus,
guereza black-and-white colobus, magistrate colobus, magistrate black colobus,
mantled guereza, white-mantled colobus; colobe à épaules blanches,
colobe de l'Abyssinie, colobe guéréza (French); colobo rojo
guereza (Spanish); abessinsk guerezavitsvansad guereza, östlig colobusapa,
östlig svartvit guereza (Swedish); C. g. caudatus: Kilimanjaro guereza,
Kilimanjaro colobus, Mt. Kilimanjaro guereza, white-tailed colobus, white-tailed
guereza; C. g. dodingae: Dodinga Hills guereza; C. g. guereza: Abyssinian
guereza, guereza, Omo River guereza, Rüppell's guereza, typical guereza; C.
g. kikuyuensis: Mt. Kenya guereza, Mt. Kenya colobus; C. g. matschiei:
Matschie's colobus, Mau Forest guereza; C. g. occidentalis: Congo guereza,
magistrate colobus, western guereza; C. g. percivali: Mt. Uarges guereza, Mt.
Uaraguess guereza, Percival's black-and-white colobus.
Groves (2005) lists 7 subspecies; C. g. caudatus, C. g. dodingae, C. g.
guereza, C. g. kikuyuensis, C. g. matschiei, C. g. occidentalis, C. g.
percivali, while formerly listing (Groves 2001) C. g. gallarum in addition to
the aforementioned subspecies. Thus, C. g. gallarum (Djaffa Mountains guereza)
persists in the literature on occasion but here is not considered a
The guereza is a large black monkey with a white mantle, or ornamentation, and
a tail tuft (Napier 1985). The body is mostly black, with the white mantle
extending from the shoulder to the hip, connecting around the lower torso. The
tail has a white tuft at its end which is variable in its extent along the
length of the tail (Groves 2001). Subspecies are distinguished from one another
by color variations in these features (Napier 1985). The face is surrounded by
white hair, with bushy cheek hairs. There is a white stripe on the thigh
(Groves 2001). In rare instances, almost entirely white individuals are
reported from the west side of Mt. Kenya (Hull 1978).
Photo: Michael Pogany
C. g. guereza has a tail which is longer than the head and body combined,
with the anterior half being gray and the tuft taking up about half of its
length (DL Hull cited in Groves 2001; Groves 2001). The mantle is long and
extends onto the back, becoming longer further back on the body (Groves 2001).
C. g. dodingae has a tail which is substantially longer than the head plus the
body and is white for only 40% of its distal end. This tail tuft is not
particularly bushy. The hair is short and coarse and the mantle is only
somewhat creamy in color, and does not expand up onto the dorsum (Groves 2001).
C. g. matschiei has a tail which is significantly longer than the head and body
with the tuft extending over less than half of its length. It has short hair
with a yellowish mantle which does not extend onto the back but extends nearly
to the white hairs around the face. The shoulders have some white (Groves
2001). The tail of C. g. occidentalis is longer than the head and body combined
and the tuft extends only one-third of the tail from the distal end. The mantle
is more a cream color than white and does not extend onto the back. The
subspecies has some white on its shoulders (Groves 2001). C. g. percivali has a
very long creamy yellow mantle and very long hair, extending longer than 40 cm
(15.7 in) on the lower abdomen. The tail is as long as the head and body
combined, with the white tuft extending over about two-thirds of its length
(Groves 2001). C. g. kikuyuensis has a very large tail tuft, covering almost
three quarters of its length and the anterior portions of the tail are grayish.
The tail is roughly as long as the body and head together. The mantle is long,
extends onto the back, and is over 40 cm (15.7 in) long on the lower abdomen.
The thigh stripe is abbreviated (Groves 2001). C. g. caudatus has a longer
mantle than C. g. kikuyuensis, its ventrum is less woolly, and over 80% of the
tail is occupied by the tuft (DL Hull cited in Groves 2001; Groves 2001).
Average weights for males fall between 9.3 and 13.5 kg (20.5-29.8 lbs) while
for females, the range of averages is between 7.8 and 9.2 kg (17.2-20.3 lbs)
(Napier 1985; WL Junger pers. comm. cited in Oates et al. 1994; Oates et al.
1994; Smith & Jungers 1997). Head and body length in males averages 61.5 cm
(24.2 in) ranging from 54.3 to 69.9 cm (21.4-27.5 in). In females, it averages
57.6 cm (22.7 in) and ranges between 52.1 and 67.3 cm (20.5-26.5 in) (Napier
Colobus guereza, like other Colobines, possesses a large and multi-chambered
stomach which allows them to better digest plant fibers, including foliage.
This ability to digest plant material is also assisted by bacteria in certain
areas of the stomach. Together, these and other morphological adaptations allow
the species to feed on large quantities of leaves (Oates & Davies 1994b).
There is a range of dental sexual dimorphism throughout the subspecies of C.
guereza, ranging from males having consistently larger teeth than females (e.g., C. g. caudatus), to
similar dentition between the sexes (e.g., C. g. guereza), to instances where some female dentition is
actually larger than male dentition (e.g, C. g. gallarum). In addition, in some cases, differences in
canine size are reduced. These differences could be attributable to habitat and
socio-sexual factors (Hayes et al. 1995).
Guerezas primarily use quadrupedal locomotion and leaping to move through
their environment, followed in frequency by climbing and other locomotor
patterns (Mittermeier & Fleagle 1976; Morbeck 1977a; 1977b; Gebo &
Chapman 1995; 2000). The species' quadrupedal movement usually consists of
bounds and gallops up and across large supports and when not moving, they will
usually sit or recline (Mittermeier & Fleagle 1976; Gebo & Chapman 1995;
2000). Leaps are usually short and contribute to a generally horizontal or
downward pattern of movement (Morbeck 1977a; Gebo & Chapman 1995). The
species rarely is seen suspending and usually feeds above a support (Mittermeier
& Fleagle 1976). While primarily arboreal, the species will descend to the
ground to feed and to travel in cases were there are not suitable arboreal
pathways (Oates 1977b).
The guereza thumb is rudimentary and greatly reduced like most members of the
colobus family (Napier 1985; Oates & Davies 1994b; Tague 2002).
In captivity, guerezas have lived past thirty years (Weigl 2005).
CURRENT RANGE MAPS (IUCN REDLIST):Colobus guereza
Guerezas are distributed in a band across the center of Africa, from Nigeria
and Cameroon east through the northern Democratic Republic of the Congo, through
southern Sudan to Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda and south into northern Tanzania
(Napier 1985; Groves 2001). Within their range, guerezas are reported in the
following countries; Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Ethiopia,
Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (numerous sources compiled by Oates 1977b; Oates &
C. g. guereza is found predominantly in Ethiopia, while C. g.
occidentalis is found from Uganda west of the Nile, to southern Sudan, to
Cameroon and south to Gabon. C. g. dodingae is only found in the
southeastern Sudan. C. g. percivali is only found around Mt. Gargues
in central Kenya. C. g. matschiei is found in western Kenya and south
into northern Tanzania. C. g. kikuyuensis is found in central Kenya
and C. g. caudatus is found in Tanzania, primarily in the region of
Mount Kilimanjaro (Groves 2001).
Guerezas are tied to habitats that have trees and are present in both
deciduous and evergreen forests (Oates 1977b; Oates et al. 1994; Lwanga 2006).
They are found in forests and savanna woodlands within and to the north of the
moist forests of central Africa, often extending into highland or montane
forests (Oates et al. 1994). However, they are found in a variety of habitat
types, including primary, secondary, riparian, gallery, and upland forest,
especially those near rivers, lakes and with higher elevations (Dunbar &
Dunbar 1974; Dunbar 1987; Oates 1977b). The species often prefers disturbed,
secondary, or colonizing forests, and prefers degraded forests to old growth
when both are available (Thomas 1991; Lwanga 2006). This preference is likely
attributable to high species diversity of food trees in some secondary growth
forests and may also be explainable in terms of milder chemical defenses in
secondary growth species (Oates 1977a; Lwanga 2006). Other habitat types
include moist lowland, medium-altitude and highland forests, rainforests,
gallery forests, swamp
forests and wooded grasslands (Oates 1977b; Dunbar 1987; Oates 1994; Fashing
2001b; Harris & Chapman 2007). Guereza will also occasionally visit swamps
(Oates 1978). In addition, they can be found in high forests in mountainous
areas, including altitudes up to 3300 m (10,826.8 ft) as well as areas under
human use, such as eucalyptus plantations (likely visited to make up for nutritional deficiencies)
(Dunbar & Dunbar 1974; Fashing et al. 2007; Harris & Chapman 2007).
Photo: Júlio César Bicca-Marques
Because of their wide distribution, both in location and altitude, average
temperatures and rainfall figures can vary considerably between and even within
study sites. At the Kibale National Park in western Uganda for example, daily
annual temperatures in the moist evergreen forest range on average between
16.2°C and 23.3°C (61.2 °F and 73.9°F) with average rainfall
values ranging between 157cm (61.8 in) and 175 cm (68.9 in) (Butynski 1990;
Chapman et al. 2002). Being near the equator, only rainfall shows seasonal
variation, peaking between March and May as well as between August or September
and November (Oates 1977a; Chapman et al. 2002).
Leaves and fruit are the main foods of the guereza but the diet is quite
variable as would be expected in a species with such a wide distribution and
range of habitat types (Oates 1994; Fashing 2001b). While the species has
historically been believed to be exclusively leaf-eaters, they are not obligate
folivores (Oates 1994; Fashing 2001b). The proportions of these types of food
relative to one another varies by study site and time of year, often with leaves
making up more than half to most of the diet, but with fruit sometimes
predominating (Dunbar & Dunbar 1974; Oates 1994; Bocian 1997 cited in
Kirkpatrick 1999; Fashing 1999; 2001; Harris & Chapman 2007). Fleshy fruits
are usually consumed when unripe, with consumption being reduced as they fully
ripen, likely to avoid competition with other primate species who prefer ripe
fruit (Fashing 1999; Chapman et al. 2006; Harris & Chapman 2007). Often, while a
number of species of plant are exploited, only several make up the majority of
the diet at a specific site (Dunbar & Dunbar 1974; Clutton-Brock 1975; Oates
1977a; Dunbar 1987; Fashing 2001b; Preece 2006; Harris & Chapman 2007). The usual guereza
pattern is to eat and select for young leaves, but in times of scarcity, to rely
on mature leaves and fruit. However the use of mature leaves can vary widely
across forests and between groups within the same forest (Oates 1977a; 1994;
Preece 2006; Chapman et al. 2006; Harris & Chapman 2007). In addition, the
possibility exists that fruit might be a preferred food item in some habitats (Fashing 2001b). Other foods consumed
include bark and wood, seeds, flowers, petioles, lianas, arthropods,
water-plants, concrete from buildings and soil (Oates 1978; Bocian 1997; Fashing
2001b; Chapman et al. 2006; Plumptre 2006; Fashing et al. 2007; Harris &
Chapman 2007). Guerezas tend to eat foods with high protein-to-fiber ratios,
and the availability of such foods is correlated with guereza biomass in a given
habitat (Chapman et al. 2004). Finally, it is supposed that the species is flexible with its dietary needs, a factor
which might allow its widespread distribution (Fashing 2001b).
The diurnal guereza spends over half of its day resting (Oates 1977a; von
Hippel 1996; Bocian 1997; Fashing 1999; 2001). The next most common activity is
feeding, which also takes up a significant amount of time although sometimes
locomotion is the second most common activity (Oates 1977a; von Hippel 1996;
Bocian 1997; Fashing 1999; 2001). Other activities that occur far less
frequently include vigilance, moving, grooming, greeting, clinging and play
(Oates 1977a; von Hippel 1996; Fashing 1999). During the day, activities
generally consist of periods of moving and feeding, punctuated by prolonged rest
periods. This pattern is variable in number of times per day between study
sites and specific days, but usually cycles around 3-5 times per day (Dunbar
& Dunbar 1974; Oates 1977a; Bocian 1997). Guerezas leave the area around
their sleeping trees one to several hours after sunrise and retire to sleeping
trees by sunset (Bocian 1997). Groups occupy up to four nearby tall sleeping
trees which are near food sources each night and try to avoid sleeping near
other guereza groups (von Hippel 1998).
C. guereza occidentalis
Photo: Alain Houle
Home range is variable with study location, with full home range estimates
ranging from just over .01 km² to 1 km² (.004 mi² to .4 mi²) with most estimates
at the lower end of this range, usually under around .2 km² (.08 mi²) (Oates
1977a; 1977c; review of 11 studies recording home range in von Hippel 1996;
Bocian 1997; Krüger et al. 1998; Fashing 1999; 2001a; Chapman & Pavelka 2005).
Home ranges can overlap, often sharing home range area with several other
groups (von Hippel 1996; Krüger et al. 1998; Fashing 2001a; Harris & Chapman 2007).
In addition, there are core areas within the home range which are significantly
smaller than the overall home range (Krüger et al. 1998; Fashing 2001a; Harris &
Chapman 2007). When compared between study sites, groups are typically between
6 and 10 individuals and usually average under 12 individuals (Oates 1994;
Krüger et al. 1998; Fashing 2007). In long-term studies, single-group day
range averages were between 252 and 734 m (826.8 and 2408.1 ft), ranging as
small as 62 m (203.4 ft) in a day to over 1360m (4461.9 ft) (Oates 1977a; Bocian
1997; Grimes 2000; Fashing 2001a).
The main confirmed predator of the guereza is the crowned hawk-eagle
(Stephanoaetus coronatus) (Oates 1977a; Struhsaker & Leakey 1990; Mitani et
al. 2001; Fashing & Oates cited in Fashing 2007). A second predator of
guereza is the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), which has been observed both
successfully and unsuccessfully hunting the species (Suzuki 1975; Ihobe 2001).
Leopards (Panthera pardus) are also potential predators of the species as
guereza remains have been found in its scats. However, the species could also
have fed upon carcasses deposited by eagles or resulting from falls (Hart et al.
1996). Other potential predators include other raptors such as Verreaux's
eagles (Aquila verreauxii) (Dunbar & Dunbar 1974).
The guereza is often found living in sympatry with a number of other primate
species. At the Ituri Forest, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, guerezas are
part of one of the richest primate communities in the world. Here, they are
found living in sympatry with Cercocebus albigena,
and Papio anubis (Thomas 1991). Other primates with
which they are sympatric include but are not limited to
Galago demidoff and
Perodicticus potto (Bocian 1997; Grimes 2000;
Stern & Goldstone 2005). In addition, infant guerezas will sometimes play
with infant vervets (Chlorocebus aethiops) and the species will also sometimes
associate with other sympatric species as well (Rose 1977; Chapman & Chapman
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) Taxonomy, Morphology, & Ecology . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/guereza/taxon>. Accessed 2016 July 27.