The Black and White Colobus Monkey is an Old World Monkey species that belongs to the Cercopithecidae family. The species is known for its ‘beautiful’ black fur that is contrasted exquisitely by a white mantle that hangs extensively off its back side, as well as bushy tail, whiskers, and beard. Not excessively large, the Colobus typically weighs in at from 15-30 pounds and reaches an approximate size of 30 inches long. The typical life span in the wild has not been measured yet, however the typical lifespan of a Colobus in captivity ranges from 20-30 years. Primarily a tree-dwelling monkey, the Black and White Colobus is actually the predominant arboreal species in all of Africa, as it spends nearly 100% of it’s life in the expansive treetops of the African tropical forests and wooded Grasslands. The Colobus’ name is derived from the Greek work ‘kolobos’, or ‘mutilated/deformed’, and this name can be accredited to the Colobus’ thumb having the appearance of being docked, a characteristic that can be attributed as an arboreal adaptation. The Colobus uses tree branches as trampolines to get around the lush treetop environment in which it delves, and can generate powerful leaps of approximately 50 feet from branch to branch. By falling with outstretched arms and legs wide open, the Colobus hopes that just one limb will be present to grasp on to just one extended branch amongst the many available, lest that monkey fall to an untimely death onto the canopy floor. It is thought that the white mantle hair and tails of the Colobus act as parachutes during these dangerous leaps.
The Black and White Colobus Moonkey is a diurnal species and spends the majority of its day eating, relaxing, socializing amongst other individuals in the group, all while in the forest canopy. From these treetops, the Colobus are able to extract tender, high-protein leaves that serves as the primary source of calories and nutrients in their diet. The Colobus have cow-like stomachs, with multiple chambers that allow them to digest these leaves, as well as many unripe fruits that other species of monkey are not able to digest. They also extract the majority of their water intake from the top of the dense foliage as well, limiting their ground-interaction.
The Colobus Monkey lives in territorial groups that typically display around 9 members which consists of one alpha male, several adult females, and the young that that particular group raises. To display dominance and warn other groups from invading their territory, the alpha male will let out menacing croaks that resonate surprisingly powerfully throughout the environment. The alpha male will also result to a series of tongue-clicking sounds if a predator does continue to persist, and as a last-ditch attempt the alpha will chase an unwanted predator away, or at least attempt to.
Child-bearing in the Colobus groups displays an allomothering system, in which all adults in the group effectively act as parent to every offspring, regardless of whether it is their own or not. Colobus females have birth intervals that occur at one birth per 20 months. Newborn Colobus monkeys exhibit a pink face with white fur that doesn’t change to its adult coat of black and white until it has reached 3 month’s maturity.
The Black and White Colobus is essentially one of the more-laid back species of monkey, as there is rarely any squabbling or rough-housing observed to be occurring amongst group members.
Because the Colobus monkeys need only a patch of forest to thrive, the species has been able to coexist near populations of humans relatively well as long as clusters of trees remain intact. However, in areas of Tropical Africa, these small forest fragments are disappearing rapidly, and the Colobus are constantly threatened by black market bush hunters as well as the always impending desecration of their forest environment caused by the local logging companies.
At the St. Louis Zoo, there is a family of Colobus Monkeys on full display. On Halloween 2012, the newest member of the Colobus family at the St. Louis Zoo, Kivuli, was born and exhibited all of the white fur and pink face that is characteristic of the Colobus young. Her name, which fits in with her birthdate, and the Swahili word for ‘shadow’. Kivuli is currently being raised by her 14-year old mother Cecelia, and their mother-daughter relationship can be seen on full display throughout the day at the St. Louis Zoo.