Depending on the reference source, there are 4 – 6 species of mangabeys in Africa. In Nigeria, there is now only the Red- capped mangabey, Cercocebus torquatus torquatus, as the grey cheeked mangabey (Cercocebus albigena) is considered locally extinct.
Mangabeys are much larger primates than guenons, taller and appear more slender (hunters sometimes refer to them as the “one with the thin waist”, as well as “the four-eyed monkey”), with fused buttock pads in the male and conspicuous sexual swellings in the female. Large cheek pouches are constantly used. Powerful teeth and jaws allow them to crack hard shells easily.
For many years, little was known of the life history and ecology of this genus, but scattered information from recent studies allows us to piece together a partial, but by no means exhaustive, picture. C. torquatus apparently enjoy a wide range of habitats from swamp forests to agricultural areas, with groups of up to 25 individuals including several adult males. More information is available on the closely related C. galeritus. In Gabon, C. galeritus preferred periodically flooded areas, with a home range of approximately 2 sq. km. with 6-12 animals per sq. km. Loud calls could be heard up to a kilometre distant, and group size varied from 13-36 animals with one to two adult males. Interaction and separation between troops varied with season and food availability.
Although more terrestrial than the guenons, mangabeys appear equally at home 30 metres up in the trees and on the ground. Males become sexually mature at between 5 and 7 years of age. Gestation in C. torquatus between 164-175 days, culminating in a single birth. Records on mangabeys in captivity indicate they may live up to 32 years. A throat sac, which gives resonance to a wide range of calls, is well developed in the males, but females also have small sacs – giving rise to loud cackles, whoops (da-ooo), ‘baddas’ and screams. Sexually dimorphic, males are much larger than the females in every respect, weighing in at up to 20 kg.
Classified as vulnerable by IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), all primates in West Africa are losing forest habitat to logging, farming and plantation development. Red-capped mangabeys, a large partially terrestrial species, are locally rare within their habitat range and particularly vulnerable to hunting because of their large size and value as bush meat. Only found within approximately 200 km of the coast (in areas of high rainfall), little information exists regarding population levels in Nigeria. Widespread deforestation threatens populations throughout the area, and it is likely isolated pockets are all that remain in large areas of remaining habitat. Surveys conducted by CERCOPAN which concentrated on Sclater’s guenon, indicate Red-capped mangabeys are already locally extinct in some isolated patches of swamp forest in the Niger delta, and extremely rare in other areas including Rhoko community forest. Along with other large primates (e.g. drill monkeys and chimpanzees), they are among the first larger mammals to disappear from forests close to human settlements.
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