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Forest Monkeys in Tanzania
Udzungwa Mountains
The Udzungwa Mountains

A new project in the University of York's Environment Department aims to discover information about rare moneys in Tanzania.

The research will focus on the effect of forest degradation on the animals.

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 The new project is being funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation (MMBF).

 The red colobus monkey is only known to live in a small number of forests around the Udzungwa Mountains.

 There is concern that habitat degradation will decrease the level of friendly interaction between different monkey groups
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Report by Andrew Marshall

The new three-year project will look at rare monkeys in the Udzungwa Mountains of Tanzania.

The main focal animal of the project will be the threatened Udzungwa red colobus monkey (Procolobus gordonorum).

These predominantly leaf-eating monkeys are listed as vulnerable by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and are known only from a handful of forests in and around the Udzungwa Mountains.

Sanje mangabey
Sanje mangabey

A second important species is the Sanje mangabey (Cercocebus galeritus sanjei). Discovered only in 1979, this large monkey is among the rarest primates in Africa.

The Udzungwa red colobus is known to have some peculiar behaviours. Since July 2001 a few observations have been made of monkeys eating soil.

This is thought to assist digestion in a similar way to charcoal consumption by other animals.

A further noteworthy observation has been the high level of interaction between different species of monkeys.

Most of the Udzungwa monkeys form mixed-species groups for varying lengths of time. Red colobus and black and white colobus monkeys associate together more frequently in the Udzungwa Mountains than closely related colobus species in any other African forests.

The regular instances of mixed group-species grouping are peculiar given that they are also competitors for food.

For the new project, Ph.D. student, Andy Marshall, will be investigating the effect of forest habitat degradation on the monkeys.

A major concern is that habitat degradation may be causing population decline. It's also likely to have had serious impacts on social groups, the central units of monkey society.

In turn habitat degradation may also decrease friendly interactions between the two colobus species, reduce social group size and therefore increase vulnerability to predators.

Fieldwork will begin in June and will include counts of monkey groups and vegetation survey.

Andrew Marshall
March 2003

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