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Angolan Black & White Colobus

The Basics

The Angolan black and white colobus monkey has black hair with a white brow band, cheeks, and throat. Long haired white epaulettes stream from the shoulders.

The lower part of the tail is white as is the band on the buttocks. This subspecies, palliatus, is only found in the south eastern Kenya and Tanzania coastal forests and the Tanzanian eastern arc mountains of the East and West Usambaras, South Pares, Nguru, Nguu and Uluguru Mountains. Although the palliatus were previously found along the entire coast, deforestation and hunting in the northern parts have resulted in their restriction to isolated pockets of forests south of Mombasa. Travelling further inland, the Guereza black and white colobus occur. These are much bigger, have longer coats, have a full cape of white hair around their backs and full bushy white tail.

Here in Diani there are approximately 450 colobus monkeys identified from the annual census, carried out every October - the second highest known concentration of this subspecies in Kenya. Overall, there are an estimated 2000 remaining in Kenya.  The Angolan Colobus is believed to be at risk from habitat loss and hunting. Its highly fragmented range suggests that we expect to see declining numbers in association with the further fragmentation and loss of habitat in both Kenya and Tanzania.

Colobus in Africa

Colobine monkeys (Family Cercopithecidae; Subfamily colobinae) are found in Africa and Asia. African species include the Olive, Red and Pied. The Pied colobus include the Black, Western Pied, Angola Pied, Geoffroy's Pied and the Guereza.

Angolan Black and White Colobus Abyssinian Black and White Colobus Tana River Red Colobus Zanzibar Red Colobus
Angolan Black and White Colobus Abyssinian Black and White Colobus Tana River Red Colobus Zanzibar Red Colobus
Colobus angolensis ssp palliatus Colobus guereza ssp occidentalis Procolobus badius ssp tephrosceles Procolobus badius ssp kirkii

Note: Taxonomy of many primate species is disputed throughout the world. This is based on the World Conservation Union (ICUN) Status Survey and Conservation Primate Specialist Group.


As are all colobus, the Angolan colobus monkey is diurnal, they have flattened nails, pads on their buttocks, and their hind legs are longer than their fore limbs. These are typical characteristics of old world monkeys. However, the specific features of Colobines are due to their unique dietary adaptations.

Colobus eat mostly leaves (and some fruits and flowers), have no cheek pouches, are arboreal (live in the tree canopy and rarely come down to the ground) and have a light-weight bone structure and elongated limbs - making it easier to leap from branch to branch. Additionally, the Colobus have no thumbs though they retain an opposable big toe. "Colobus" in fact acquired their name from the Greek word "kolobos" meaning maimed or mutilated. The reduction of the thumb is an adaptation to arboreal living as the fingers have become aligned into a single, narrow curved arc that allows the hand to act as a flexible hook.

Their stomach is large and has three chambers, which carries specific bacteria that helps to ferment and digest leaves, similar to rumination of, for example, cows. The majority of their diet is made up of young and mature leaves - 46 species eaten but only five species make the greatest proportion of their diet. Because of the poor nutritional quality of their food, they browse intensively for many hours each day. They digest two to three kg of leaves per day (one third of their full body weight), and also eat seeds, unripe fruits and flowers. Some species of Colobus are known to eat soil, clay and charcoal which is thought to assist in the digestion of toxic leaves.

In Diani, Colobus are rarely a pest to tourists as they do not eat human food and remain in the tree canopy. Due to their dependence on forests they are a true "flagship" species in which the overall health of the forest can be gauged.

Babies and Families

Infants are born strikingly white, and then turn grey and black and then by three months of age, to the adult colouration of black and white. They are born throughout the year but a birth peak is seen in September and October. Colobine infants are known for their flamboyant colouration, which is remarkably different than the adult. This is considered an adaptation for encouraging 'aunting behaviour' where other females in the group are attracted to the newborn and spend time caring for the young. This supposedly frees up maternal time for feeding. As is known amongst the Colobines, the nutritional value to their diet is low and the stresses of rearing offspring puts enormous pressure on the female. Aunting behaviour thus counteracts the burden of nursing.

Females remain in their natal troops for life. The dominant male defends the territory and troop from predators whereas the dominant female leads the troop. Young males leave their natal troop to start bachelor groups or to travel alone until they are able to take over their own troop.

Other Primates in Diani

Abstracted from information compiled by R. Eley and P. Kahumbu -- The colobus isn't the only primate in Diani. In fact, there are three primate families on the south coast at Diani: 1.) Family Lorisinae (bushbabies), 2.) Family Cercopithecidae (vervets, sykes, baboons, colobus) and 3.) Family Hominidae (humans).
Vervet Monkeys
Cercopithecus aethiops
vervetCercopithecus monkeys are the most common monkeys found in Africa. Five of the 20+ species found in Africa can be found in Kenya and both the vervet and sykes monkeys can be found commonly in Diani. The vervet (also known as the "African green monkey") is a grey-brown monkey with white under parts, white-fringed black face, long whitish cheek whiskers, white brow, black feet and black tip of the tail. Males posses a blue scrotum, red penis and red peri-anus and weigh around 4 to 6 kg and measure 40 to 60 cm when adult. Females are normally 2 to 5 kg and measure 30 to 50 cm. Female breasts also often have a bluish tinge to them. Infants have similar, but lighter, colouration and also have pink faces.

Normally found in savannah, woodland, riverine, lake-shore and coastal forests - vervets normally do not inhabit heavily forested areas of very open grasslands. They are widely distributed around southern Africa (south of the Sahara Desert) and are found throughout Kenya - even in the city of Nairobi!

Vervets are omnivorous, opportunistic feeders eating fruit, seeds, roots, bark, flowers, gum, insects, small vertebrates and eggs. In Diani, tourist tid-bits provide a healthy portion of many vervets' daily diet and all visitors are warned not to feed them. Although they adapt easily to new situations and seem tame when used to human feeding, they are still wild animals and are treated as such. This includes being disease carriers, rabies and other bite diseases and could result in the animals being put down.

Vervets are equally at home on the ground and in the trees, and this flexibility is reflected in their distribution. They live within troops of 20 to 30 animals with a linear dominance hierarchy among males, and (like baboons) a kinship relationship among females. Complex communication among vervets has been documents for some time, with characteristic and different calls being contextual for different sorts of situations and eliciting different responses in return. For example, alarm calls for aerial predators differ from alarm calls for snakes are different - requiring the vervets in the area to look in different places to triangulate the danger.

See some recent [vervet photos].

Sykes Monkeys
Cercopithecus albogularis
Sykes MonkeysSykes monkeys are also widely distributed on the Kenyan coast and are a common sight in Diani. They are approximately the same size as a Vervet, ranging from 50 to 70 cm in body length and weighing 6 to 9 kg for males and 3 to 6 kg for females.

Their colour is largely grey, with a blackish tail, limbs and shoulders, and a distinctive flecked chestnut back and face. They have a white chin and throat and a white ruff which extends part of the way around the neck. The forehead hairs point forward, creating a yet more distinctive look. Infants are similar, but with a slightly darker coat and pink face.

Skyes monkeys are arboreal and found in all sorts of heavily wooded areas, including the coast. They are omnivorous, although their main food is leaves, shoots, flowers, fruits and berries. They will also feed on birds eggs, insects and other food like human food - for which they are notorious and sly thieves.

Skyes monkeys are highly territorial and live in female bonded, single-male troops (averaging 20 individuals in Diani) although they tend to forage in a more dispersed manner. Sykes troops are remarkably stable and peaceful groups, with resident males maintaining dominance for years on end and sub-adult males being evicted readily. Outsider males often learn to imitate the dominant male's call to lure away females. Interestingly enough, these monkeys sometimes associate with the colobus, grooming and playing with each other at times, especially juveniles. It is thought that the colobus tolerate the Sykes monkeys because they are extremely vigilant and are usually first to notice any danger.

Skyes monkeys also make a curious assortment of vocalisations, from soft bird-like chirping to trilling sounds given by sub-adults as a sign of submission when approaching an adult. Loud chirps and bird-like alarm calls bring the troop into a state of alertness. Growls and screams are emitted during chases between troop members and a series of puled calls are given in alarm to birds of prey.

Yellow Baboons
Papio cynocephalus
baboonBaboons belong to the genus Papiowhich is divided into five species - Olive, Yellow, Chacma, Guinea and Hamadryas - of which the Olive and Yellow are found in Kenya. Baboons are monkeys (although they are often wrongly referred to as apes) and are not threatened although their numbers have been declining in Africa overall in the recent years because of eradication programmes.

The Yellow baboon is a mainly terrestrial, coastal baboon with yellow-brown hair, barrel chests, a prominent muzzle, naked face, large cheek pouches and close-set, amber-coloured eyes. They back legs are shorter then their front legs, giving them a characteristic backward sloping stance - and they often climb trees for food and as a place to sleep. They walk on their fingers and the soles of their feet.

Baboon infants are born black with pink faces, hands and ears, but turn brown in colour with darker faces with older age, usually beginning at about six months of age. Both males and females have large, grey-skinned sitting pads called "ischial" callosites (separated in females but joined in males). Females have pronounced sexual swellings between the sitting pads (so, for example - the photo on the right shows a normal baboon with such swelling).

A mature male baboon is an imposing sight, weighing 20-30 kg and a head-body length of 70 cm, standing 50 cm at teh shoulders. Males are approximately twice the size and weight of females. Apart from colour, the two Kenyan species of baboon are very similar in appearance, although the thinner coat of the Yellow baboon vs. the thick hair/manes of the Olive baboon make it look smaller in comparison. It takes males around seven to eight years to reach maturity, although they will continue to grow for a few years after that as well. Females reach sexual maturity at five years.

The primary habitat of the Yellow baboons is the savannah, but these highly opportunistic and adaptive animals can survive almost anywhere. In Kenya they occupy many habitats and have flourished in the Diani area. They naturally eat roots and bulbs, grasses, herbs, flowers, buds, fruits and leaves - as well as catch insects and are known to prey on rodents, rabbits and birds. In Diani and other populated areas, their diet extends to human food and they are notorious raiders of crops and garbage.

They also live in complex social societies made up of multi-male and multi-female troops, ranging in size from 10 to even 200 individuals. Each troop occupies a home range which varies in size from 2 square km in heavily wooded areas to 30 square km in more open areas. Baboons are extremely noisy creatures as well, communicating through an array of sounds accompanied by gestures and postures. They are known in Diani to make loud and boisterous displays daily, at dawn and at dusk.

Bush Babies
Galago senegalensis (Northern lesser)
Otolemur crassicaudatus (Thick-tailed greater)
bush babyGalagos (or as they are more commonly known "Bush babies") are found in most forested and wooded areas in sub-Saharan Africa. They are also only found in Africa. In Diani, they frequent gardens and kitchens during the night, searching for food.

They are small, nocturnal animals with very large eyes and excellent senses of hearing and smell. Their muzzles are pointed and they have mobile ears and long bush tails and more teeth than Old World monkeys (36 teeth for Bush babies, as opposed to 32). They additionally have extremely delicate fingers and extreme gripping power by pads on their fingers and toes - although on the ground their locomotion more resembles the kangaroo, jumping and pausing to look around. Bush babies diet varies slightly from place to place, but normally comprises - in the Greater - a mixture of insects, small reptiles and plant products and - in the Lesser - includes fruit. Prey is caught by pouncing and biting.

They are extremely social creatures and enjoy frequent interactions among each other, both of like and opposite sex. This is despite having exclusive ranges of from 1 to 3 hectares which thy guard and mark with urine, smeared on hands and feet, nightly. Bush babies are seasonal breeders and reach sexual maturity from age 1 to 2. Young are similar to adults although newborn Bush babies are naked on the underside for a period of approximately 1 week. For the first few months, baby Bush babies have been seen to be carried by their mothers in their mouths, similar to the behaviour of the domestic cat.

Other Wildlife in the Diani Area

Other Wildlife in the Diani Area and at the Colobus Cottage
spotted ground thrushPrimates aren't the only thing to see on the south coast of Kenya. The region offers a great array of mammals and birds, reptiles, marine life and flora for exploration. Here are some of the different things you can see in the forest in Diani.
Zanj ElephantZanj Elephant Shrew - This unique shrew (Rhynchocyon petersi) eats invertebrates in leaf litter and has been declared rare by the IUCN. Not much is known about this shrew, although they are living in the forests in Diani!

suniSuni - Suni are forest antelope 40cm tall and male's horns can reach 13cm. Their facial glands are enormous, especially in the male and their fur is sleek, shiny, freckled dark brown with a lighter underside. They are browsers with a varied diet of leaves, shoots and herbs and gather under feeding colobus monkeys to pick up dropped leaves and shoots of brittlewood. The rely on smell for many social activities and visible and invisible scented pathways are followed with individual and communal dung middens tending to be on the peripheries of a territory. They feed in short bursts interspersed with rests and are most active after rainstorms and between dusk and 10 pm and after 4pm. They rest during the heat of the day. Mainly pairs on territories of approximately 3 ha.

mongooseMongooses - They are primarily terrestrial and predators of invertebrates, small vertebrates and sometimes fruit. Most species are water dependant inhabitants of forests, woodlands, savannahs and marshes; however, some can go long periods without water. They depend on scent to communicate and mark territories. Anal secretions constitute long-lasting, individual signatures while cheek-gland secretions produce a short term status related signal that can trigger immediate aggression. Their ability to roll and crash-crack eggs and to kill dangerous snakes is well known. Both are instances of the manipulative skills, speed and versatility of many mongooses in their hunting techniques. Mongooses likely to be seen in Diani are the Egyptian mongoose, Slender mongoose, White-tailed mongoose and Bushy tailed mongoose.

genetGenets and Civets - Genets and civets are to carnivores what lemurs are to the higher primates. Civets in particular are modern approximations of the carnivores common ancestral stock. These carnivores are generally solitary foragers, spanning most major habitats. Scent is their most fundamental mode of communication and all species use glandular secretions to regulate contacts and behaviour. The are almost entirely terrestrial, solitary foragers and not endangered.

Genets have slender, long cat-like bodies and have a banded tail. They have soft spotted or blotched fur (occasional black morphs are also known) and are normally silent they spit, hiss, growl, purr and meow like cats. They are omnivorous (eating vertebrates, invertebrates and plant matter) and rely on speed and agility and cryptic colouring to catch food as well as evade large predators. They are solitary except for brief courtship and six months while young are with their mother. In Diani we have the Common genet - with a crest of long fur along the spine, ringed tail, dark spots are small, numerous and linear on a sandy background and eating rodents as their main staple. Also seen often is the Blotched genet - with a blotchy coat, eating rodents, invertebrates and fruits.

civetAfrican civet (Civettictis civetta) is the only civet to be found in this area. They are largely terrestrial and normally silent, although they growl very deeply if harassed. They are omnivores adapted to eating poisonous fruits, such as Strychnos, distasteful insects, millipedes and dangerous snakes. They are able to feed irregularly and even fast for two weeks at a time. They have up to four young born 60-72 days gestation born in a burrow, crevice, dense vegetation. Civet secretions are so copious and durable that they once provided the perfume trade with a valuable fixative for floral scents.

insect batBats - There are two types of bats in Diani - insect eaters and fruit eaters. In spite of the similarities between fruit and insectivorous bats which suggests a very ancient common ancestry, the fruit bats actual have more affinities with primates. Possibly the evolution from lemur-like gliders in rainforest. Insectivores use echo-location to pinpoint obstacles and prey. Species whose niche is under canopy utilise higher frequencies and therefore have greater precision. Those that are in open areas use lower frequencies as they require lower precision. Insect eating bats have a clawless wing, complex ears and teeth, small eyes and complex ears with irregular margins.

fruit batFrugivores (fruit-eating) bats do not use echolocation and are mediocre navigators and usually fly above the forest canopy. They have large eyes, second claw on wing, funnel-shaped ears, large tongues, blunt short teeth and a deeply ridged palate which working together crush, squeeze the fruit so that only juice and pulp are swallowed. Fibres and rind are usually spat out. They rely on a year-long supply of fruits and flowers. They can also be important as pollinators and are v. Important as seed dispersers.

African Hedgehogs - The evolution of spiny armour has been a major factor in their survival as a group. They are successful and widespread modern survivors of a very ancient group. The spines are embedded into a muscle that is anchored to the forehead which contracts and becomes a bag into which the body, head and legs are withdrawn. The spines are effective protection through some owls and carnivores have no problem killings and eating them. They are nocturnal insect-eaters mainly active in the evenings and at night, trot with fast leg movements but hunch or roll into a prickly ball at any disturbance and find prey by scent and sound.

bush pigBush pigs - Bush pigs range up to 4000 m on Mt. Kilimanjaro and live in forest and woodland habitats . They are omnivorous - eating roots, tubers, bulbs, fruits, larvae, beetles, snails, amphibians and reptiles - scavenging and a group have even been seen to drive a leopard off its kill. Their home ranges are about 10km 2, nightly foraging of up to 6 km2 and are a major pest for farmers and are hunted for control and meat. Without natural predators they can become very abundant as they have short gestation periods (120 days), large litters, fast maturation rates.

butter flyButterflies -

Coastal giant millipede - This is the largest of these giant millipedes is known as Archispirostreptus gigas which can be over 10cm. It can cause serious localized seasonal damage to crops and small forestry seedlings. In dry conditions, they feed on living plants and burrow down in crevices and in wet conditions, their populations appear to increase explosively and mainly feed on leaf litter and other dead materials. The species Epibolus pulchripes is more common on the coast. It seldom damages plants but is very useful in humus formation. Predators to the giant millipedes include civets, mongoose, and some birds.

owlOwls - Eyes can see in dim light, owls have the best hearing of all birds. Eat mice, rats, large insects. Owl can see in daylight and even on a dark night but cannot see in total darkness. Owl eyes face forward so that they can focus on their fast-moving prey and judge distances. They have large ear openings, protected by feathers to hear the noise of prey.

Silvery-Cheeked Hornbill - This striking, large bird is at home in Diani and forests, parks and gardens along the Kenyan South Coast and even up into Nairobi. It grows to have a wingspan of over 75 cm as a male and 65 cm as a female.

Strangling figs (Ficus lingua) - Strangling figs are plants known as epiphytes (plants that start by growing on other plants). Some Strangling fig are hemiepiphyte (these are trees that start by growing on the ground and end up as parasites on host/mother plants). Fig trees are not parasitic, however they get physical support from the host plant, and it has been reported that they do not get any nutrients out of their host plants. Researchers have postulated that this epiphytic habit is an adaptation to avoid fire and being foraged on by herbivores. The strangling fig eventually kills its host by competition and killing the host.

baobabBaobab (Adansonia Digitata) - Truly a tree that represents Africa, this striking deciduous tree of immense girth, up to 25 meters in height. It is bare of leaves up to 9 months of the year, earning a nick-name, the upside down tree. Despite its soft pithy wood, it is one of the longest lived trees in the world. Carbon dating has shown trees 5m wide to be 1000 years old. Portuguese cannon balls from nearly four centuries ago have been found embedded in living trees that line the approach to Mombasa harbour.

The bark is grey, smooth and fibrous, often pock-marked and heavily folded. Leaves are compound, ‘digitate’, dark green and shiny. Flowers are solitary, 5 waxy petals surrounding a ball of fine stamens, upside down on hanging stalks, unpleasant scented. Fruits are large hard-shelled capsules up to 24 cm long, and remaining on the tree after ripening. Their leaves are a favourite of the colobus, and the fruit of the other monkeys - though only the baboon can crack them open.

Prickly Ash (Zanthozylum Challybeum) - An Indigenous shrub or tree 1.5 to 10 meters or more, evergreen. Found often in rocky sites (the Diani forests are full of coral rock). Its trunk is furrowed with corky knobs or ridges crowned with spines. Leaves compound with 5 to 11 leaflets. Its flowers are yellow-green, usually borne below the leaves. The fruit is tinny, 5 – 8 mm long, obliquely ellipsoid with a shinny black seed. The leaves are eaten by colobus and used locally to treat chest infections and, because of their fresh citrus smell and taste, to spice tea.

neemNeem Tree (Azadracta indica) - Common in the coast, though it is not indigenous to Africa. It is a hardy tree which grows to 118 meters. It has a rough pale brown-grey bark, small fresh glossy-green compound leaves, small white or cream fragrant flowers and small oval greenish-yellow berries. It is widely planted at the coast for fuel, timber, shade, agroforestry in exhausted soils, and as traditional medicine for treating 40 diseases, including malaria. Also used for soap making. Colobus like to eat its leaves while its berries are a favourite for sykes and vervet monkeys.

Flamboyant (Delonix regia) - Another exotic plant found in Diani and a favourite of the colobus monkeys. It is one of the most beautiful trees, particularly when it flowers – brilliant scarlet-red, each flower up to 10cm across with wavy petals, of which the uppermost is creamy white and splashed with scarlet. It has a flat or umbrella shaped crown, its bark is grey and smooth, leaves twice compound light green and feathery, with leaflets mostly less than 1 cm long. They fruits are long brown heavy pods honeycombed into horizontal seed chambers. These seed pods are also favoured by baboons and sykes monkeys. Vervets also eat them.