Would you like to go on a primates safari in Uganda? The country hosts 20 different primate species. From the large primates like gorillas and chimpanzees to the smallest like the recently discovered dwarf galago, Uganda is a destination where you can enjoy primate watching at its best.
Baboon (Papio Cynocephalus)
Known by different sub- species names, baboons are unmistakable given their heavy build and dog-like faces and can be differentiated from other monkeys found in Uganda, and races differ only in superficial appearance. Four types of Baboon live in sub-Saharan Africa. Of these, the
Yellow baboons (P.c Cynocephalus) are a yellow-brown colour whereas Olive baboons (P.c Anubis) have olive- brown hair. The Olive baboon is the only type found in Uganda.
Baboons live in complex troops numbering between eight and 200 individuals. There is no dominant male as males frequently move between troops. Baboons are omnivorous. They forage openly in savannah-woodland for tubers, grasses, fruits insects and occasionally for small vertebrates. They are highly adaptable and for this reason are the most widespread primate in Africa.
Baboons are the size of a large monkey with a shoulder height of 75cm, length of up to 160cm and body mass of between 25 to 45 kg. They are active during the day. They occur in all National Parks except the three montane ones and are also found in forest reserves.
In Uganda, baboons can be seen at Queen Elizabeth, Semiliki and Kibale National Parks, at Kabwoya and Karuma wildlife reserves, Mabira forest reserve and at a few other conservation areas.
Black and White Colobus ( Colobus guereza)
Unlike chimpanzees, the truly magnificent and unmistakable BLACK AND WHITE COLOBUS spends most of its life in high forest canopy and rarely, if ever, visits the ground.
It’s conspicuous because of its black-furred body which is off-set by remarkable white highlights; a facial fringe, a flowing ‘cloak’ and a tuft to its long tail.
‘Colobus’ derives from the Greek word for crippled for the primate has a useless stump in place of a thumb. This though doesn’t prevent it from making agile leaps through the canopy of up to 30m including very daring drops of upto 15metres, all of which are spectacular sights. I’ts easily located by its frog-like croaking. It is probably the most widespread and common forest monkey in Uganda, and occurs in most sizeable forest patches and even in woodland. The closely related Angola Colobus (Colobus angolensis) occurs alongside the Black and white Colobus in the forested parts of the Rwenzori National Park.
Red Colobus (Piliocolobus badius)
It has very few distinguishing features but it’s a relatively large monkey with a reddish-greyish coat and a slightly tufted crown. It’s sociable, and community set up is of troops of 50 or more individuals. These troops do not coexist but scatter.
In Uganda, Black and White colobus can be seen at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Kibale and Semiliki National Parks, and at Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary where they are especially common.
Compare with the Central African Red Colobus in Kibale and Semiliki, and Rwenzori Colobus in Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
Vervet Monkey (Cercopitheus aethiops)
Also known as the green’ tantalus, savannah and grivet monkey, it is the most common monkey of the savannah and woodland although it’s associated with a variety of habitats. At least four species are in Uganda: the black-faced vervet ( C. a. centralis) Naivasha vervet ( C. a. callidus) Jebej Mara tantalus ( C. a. marrensis) and Stuhlmann’s green monkey ( C. a.stuhlmanni). Vervets are recognized by their grizzled grey hair and somber black faces fringed with white. They live in troops numbering upto 30 individuals. Males and females are physically of the same characteristics except for their distinctive bright blue scrotums, an important signal of status in the troop.
They are diurnal and forage for fruits, seeds, leaves, flowers, inverterbrates and the occasional lizard or nestling.
They grow upto 130cm long including the 60cm tail and weigh between 3.5 to 8 kg. They are very common and widespread in Uganda, even outside of National Parks, but they are absent from forest and afro- alpine habitats. In Queen Elizabeth, Semiliki and Kibale National Parks, they are seen.
Patas Monkey ( Erythrocebus patas)
It’s a terrestrial primate restricted to dry savannah of north-central Africa. The race found in Uganda is the Nile Patas or nisras ( E p. pyrrhonotus). They can easily be confused with vervet monkeys except that it’s lankier, has a reddish- brown coat and a distinctive black stripe above the eyes whereas the Vervet is greyer and has a black face. In Uganda, it is restricted to the extreme north and can be seen at Murchison Falls and Kidepo valley National Parks as well as the Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve.
Blue Monkey/ Skye’s Monkey (Cercopithecus Mitis)
It’s also known by other names such as gentle monkey, samango monkey, diademed guenon and white- throated guenon. Similar to the Vervet Monkeys, it’s slightly larger and much darker. Blue monkeys have blue – to –grey coats, black-grey faces with black shoulders, limbs and tail. They are common in most Ugandan forests. They are more arboreal than Vervet Monkeys and they feed largely on foliage, fruits, bark, gum and leaves. Social groups may be as large as 30 but generally number between four and twelve. They are gregarious and usually associate with other primates.
They measure about 140 cm of which 80 cm is tail and weigh from 8 to 10kg. Blue Monkey are active during the day but often difficult to see among the foliage.
However, except for Murchison Falls and Lake Mburo National Parks, Blue Monkey occur in the rest of Uganda’s parks, and in almost every other forest in the country They are easy to see at Queen Elizabeth, Kibale and Semiliki National Parks.
L’Hoest’s Monkey ( Cercopithecus lhoesti)
It is a handsome guenon has a black face and white whiskers that partially cover its ears and habitually carries it’s tail in an upright position, a peculiar habit exclusive to it among guenons. It is difficult to see because of it’s preference for dense secondary forest and it’s terrestrial habits, but in Uganda, L’Hoest’s monkey is likely to be seen in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kibale, Bwindi or Maramagambo Forest.
De Brazza’s Monkey ( Ceropithecus neglectus)
It is thick in build, has a hairy face with a reddish-brown patch around it’s eyes, distinctive white band across it’s brow, white moustache and beard and a relatively short tail. It’s very localized in East Africa, and is most likely to be seen in the confines of Mount Elgon and Semiliki National Parks.
Red-tailed Monkey ( Cercopitthecus ascinius)
It has a brownish coat, white cheek whiskers, a coppery tail and a distinctive white, heart-shaped patch on it’s nose. It is widespread in forested habitats. Red-tailed monkeys live in flexible communities which swell into groups of up to 200 members, break up to smaller family units, sometimes to pairs and at others to just a single individual. They associate with other monkeys and regularly interbreed in the Kibale Forest besides which they also are found in Bwindi, Queen Elizabeth and Semiliki National Parks, as well as Budongo, Mpanga and several other forest reserves
.Grey-cheeked Mangabey ( Cercocebus algigena)
It is a greyish-black monkey, with a shaggier coat than that of other guenons has light-grey cheeks and a subtle mane. The race found in Uganda also known as Johnson’s mangabey ( C. a. Johnson). They have a preference for lowland and mid altitude forests. In Uganda, Kibale Forest and Semiliki National Park is where they are likely to be seen because here, they are common.
These have a behavioral characteristic of sheltering during the day and emerging at night to forage. Consequently, they are rarely seen unless on night walking safaris.
There is the greater or thick –tailed bushbaby (Otolemur crassicaudatus), east African lesser bushbaby (Galago Senegalensis), Zanzibar lesser bushbaby(zanzibaricus Galagoides). Five galago species are found in Uganda of which the lesser Bushbaby (Galago senegalensis) is the most common. It has been recorded in all of Uganda’s savannah reserves. The eastern needle-clawed Bushbaby (G. inustus), Thomasi’s Bushbaby ( G. thomasi) and dwarf Bushbaby ( G. demidovii) all occur in the Kibale and Bwindi forests, and the dwarf Bushbaby has also been recorded in Queen Elizabeth and Lake Mburo National Park.
Named for their plaintive wailing calls which pierce the night, bush babies are actually primitive primates.
They are miniature in size and have a glossy dark coat and erect ears. Heightened night vision and extremely sensitive hearing makes them ideally adapted to their nocturnal way of life.
Fruit and tree –sap are the mainstay of their diet and diet and it’s supplemented by insects and in the case of greater bushbaby lizards, nestlings and eggs. They are upto 80cm long half of which is its bushy tail (greater bushbaby), 40cm long (lesser bushbaby) and weigh 1.5kg (greater bushbaby) and 150g to 200g (lesser bushbaby).
Bushbabies prefer lightly wooded savannah to thick forests and have been recorded in all of Uganda’s savannah reserves.
In Uganda, they are common in most forested areas and at Queen Elizabeth, Kibale and Semiliki they are sure to be seen although their strict nocturnal routine makes this difficult as it also calls for venturing in the night. But to see a Bushbaby, trace their cry to a tree and shine a torch into it and you will easily pick out their large round eyes.
Another nocturnal primate is the Potto, which can also be seen in Semiliki National park.