Classification and Range
Patas monkeys, also called red guenons, are old world monkeys in the family Cercopithecidae. This family includes 18 genera with 81 species, all found in Africa. The patas monkey is the only species found in the genus Erythrocebus. They range from Senegal to Ethiopia and south to Tanzania.
They are primarily ground-dwelling primates and are often found in open bush and grass savanna regions. They also reside in woodland savannas but avoid densely wooded areas.
Patas monkeys have a head and body length of 24-35 inches (61-89 cm); males are usually larger than females. Their tail is 20-30 inches (51-76 cm) in length. Males weigh 15-29 pounds (6.8-13.2 kg), while females weigh less, from 9-15 pounds (4.1-6.8 kg).
15 to 20 years in the wild; over 20 years in zoos.
In the wild: Patas are omnivores but are especially dependent on the pods, seeds, gall, young leaves, gum and flowers of acadia trees. They also eat grasses, berries, seeds, fruits, insects, eggs, lizards and young birds.
At the zoo: Keepers feed them greens (romaine, kale, spinach, cabbage, broccoli and celery), fruits, insects, grasses and monkey chow.
Females reach sexual maturity at about 2.5 years of age. Males are sexually mature at 3.5-4.5 years. Gestation lasts approximately 167 days, after which the female gives birth to one offspring.
A patas troop generally has only one adult male and four to 10 females. Other patas males either live alone or in bachelor groups. The highest-ranking female is in charge of the troop, not the male. The male patas monkey spends much of his time perched high in trees or rock outcroppings, on the lookout for predators and other dangers.
Tied to the Earth
Many species of primates live in African tropical forests. However, only three types of monkeys still inhabit the African savanna: patas monkeys, vervet monkeys and four species of baboons. All savanna primates are primarily diurnal and terrestrial. Patas monkeys are well adapted for this life on the ground. Although they can climb trees, they tend to do so only at night or when looking out for predators. As night approaches, the troop separates and each monkey goes to a separate tree. Females go to a tree with their infant.
Primary predators of patas monkeys include leopards, cheetahs, eagles, hyenas and jackals. If a predator approaches, the ever-watchful male patas creates a diversionary display. Bouncing noisily on bushes or trees, he draws attention to himself and away from the females and young. This gives the rest of the troop time to silently flee or to hide in the long grass. Additionally, the coloration of patas enables them to use their savanna surroundings as camouflage. They are reddish-brown, mixed with gray on the upper sides of their body for better camouflage in savanna grasses. The undersides of their bodies range from white or gray to pinkish. Adult males have long, mane-like hair around their nape and shoulders, and they have a white mustache.
Quick on Their Feet
Patas may cover 0.3-9 miles (0.5-14.5 km) per day in search of food. Their long, slender arms and legs enable them to run up to 35 miles (56 km) per hour. When required, a patas can go zero to 33 miles per hour (0-53 km/h) in just three seconds. Because they are so fast and agile, patas monkeys rarely stand and fight when threatened by a predator. Instead, they depend on their speed to help them escape.
Location at the Zoo
Patas monkeys are in the north end of the zoo's award-winning exhibit, the African Savanna. As you watch the patas monkey, scan the horizon for other mammals that may come into view, such as plains zebra, fringe-eared oryx and reticulated giraffe. African wild dogs, lion and hippopotamus can be viewed at their exhibits in the savanna area. Also look for a variety of African savanna birds.
Although patas monkeys are not listed as an endangered or threatened species, the same cannot be said for other old world monkeys. At least 27 other species of monkeys in the family Cercopithecidae are listed as endangered. Additionally, humans frequently hunt patas monkeys for their meat or because they are sometimes considered pests. Patas monkeys may raid cultivated crops. Furthermore, heavy cattle grazing and the conversion of savanna areas into farmland have reduced available habitat for patas monkeys. However, in some instances, deforestation has converted once humid areas into drier savanna zones. In turn, this actually increases suitable habitat for patas monkeys.
Woodland Park Zoo Is Helping-With Your Support!
For many animals, flexible and sustainable conservation programs are essential. Partnerships with other zoos can support healthy captive populations, while in-situ fieldwork can provide successful on-ground solutions for helping the patas monkey's habitat. An example of such a program is in the form of land protection agreements.
Each in-situ project supported by the zoo aims to provide a broad, holistic approach to conservation, encompassing research, education, habitat and species preservation. This includes comprehensive, cooperative strategies to link the needs of animals with the people who share their ecosystems.
How You Can Help!
Woodland Park Zoo contributes information to the captive breeding, husbandry and public awareness of this intriguing species. The effort to save African mammals requires cooperation and support at the international, national, regional, and individual levels. You can help in this cause. Join and become active in Woodland Park Zoo and other conservation organizations of your choice. Let your elected representatives know your views on protecting endangered species and wild habitats. Please do not buy products made from wild animal parts.
Contact Woodland Park Zoo at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can support conservation efforts at the zoo. Learn other ways you can help conserve wildlife and the habitats they require for survival by visiting our How You Can Help page.
Sources and Suggested Reading
Nowak, Ronald M. ed. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. 5th Edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London. 1629 p.
Wolfheim, Jaclyn H. 1983. Primates of the World: Distribution, Abundance, and Conservation. University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA. 831 p.
Julivert, Maria Angels. 1996. Primates. Barrons, New York, NY. 31 p.
Zoobooks. 1994. Old World Primates. Wildlife Education Ltd, San Diego, CA. 18 p.