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Black Mangabey


Other Common Names: Black-crested mangabey
Order: :  Primates
Genus & Species: Lophocebus atterimus
Family: Cercopithecidae


Listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.


Africa. Central Africa south of the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; in rainforest areas of the south-west Congo Basin and into Angola


Tropical rainforests and wetlands


Diurnal. Most foraging is done in the early morning.


Head and body length 15-35 inches; tail length 17-30 inches; weight 6.5 to 26.5 pounds; both males and females are similar in size, females slightly smaller.


Up to 30 years.


Mainly fruit but also seeds, leaves, flowers, nuts, insects and spiders. Nectar can be an important source of food in some months.


Black mangabeys are Old World monkeys with long limbs and a tail that is longer than the body. The tail is used for balance but not for grasping. Black mangabeys tend to have dark skin and eyelids that match their facial skin. Coarse black hair forms a conical crest on the top of the head. Long brown or grayish brown whiskers almost cover their ears.


When a female mangabey is ready to breed, her buttocks swells and takes on a pinkish color.  This is a visual signal to the males.  Usually a single offspring is born after a gestation period of 5½ to 6 months.  Baby mangabeys are born with their eyes open and with a strong instinct to grab on to their mothers’ fur.  Newborns cling to their mothers’ bellies, and older offspring ride on their mothers’ backs.

Ecology, Adaptations, Etc:

Black mangabeys live only in Africa.  They are large forest-dwelling monkeys that are related to baboons.  Black mangabeys are arboreal, spending most of their time in the trees.  They are excellent jumpers, and they utilize all layers of the forest, especially the middle canopy layers.  They seldom descend to the forest floor.   Black mangabeys move through the trees using a mode of locomotion called arboreal quadrupedalism. This means that they move along the horizontal branches with a regular gait using all four limbs.  They do not swing through the branches (brachiation) or use their tails for grasping.

Black mangabeys live in groups of 11 to 20 individuals usually with only one adult male who acts as leader and defender of the troop. When a young male mangabey reaches sexual maturity, he leaves his troop and tries to find another.  He lives alone until he finds another group to join.  Black mangabeys do not form all-male groups.

Mangabeys have large cheek pouches which they will fill with food.  They use their strong jaws and teeth to crack nuts and to bite into thick-skinned fruits.  They also will use their teeth to tear the bark off trees in order to find insects and spiders underneath.

Vocal communication is very important for black mangabeys.  A variety of calls are used to communicate among the members of a troop and to maintain territories.  A special throat sac gives these monkeys booming voices which can be used to make loud calls which serve to maintain distances between groups in the dense forest canopy.  Other vocalizations include a high-frequency chuckle which serves as an alarm, a progression call which indicates that the group is on the move, and greeting grunts which are used by males to reassure approaching juveniles.  The whoop-gobble is a special call used only by adult males.  It is used to communicate spacing and can be heard for a distance of over half a mile.  The whoop portion of the call gets the attention of other mangabeys in the area, and the gobble identifies the caller and his location.


When the first shipment of these monkeys was sent to Europe, it was labeled as coming from Mangabe which gave rise to the name “mangabey.”   Mangabe, however, is a port on the island of Madagascar, and there are no mangabeys native to Madagascar!

A new species of mangabey was recently identified in the forests of Tanzania.  It was named the highland mangabey because it is found at elevations of up to 8,000 feet.  There is some disagreement among scientists about where this new species should be placed taxonomically.  Some are calling the highland mangabey Lophecebus kipunji while others prefer to place it in a new genus as Rungwecebus kipunji.  This species is already considered highly endangered due to illegal logging that has destroyed parts of its habitat.


Populations have declined dramatically in most parts of the black mangabey’s range as a result of intensive, uncontrolled hunting for its meat as part of the bushmeat trade.  Because they are fruit lovers, mangabeys are often killed as pests when they raid fruit plantations.  This species is also vulnerable due to loss of its forest habitat.

Black mangabey’s are present and protected in the Salonga National Park, Lukuru Community Reservation, and the Lomako conservation areas in the Democratic Rebublic of the Congo.