Colobus monkey

Colobus guereza

Colobus monkeys are widely distributed across the forests and grasslands of Central Africa. They are herbivores. Colobus comes from the Greek kolobus which means "maimed," a reference to their hands. Unlike most primates, colobus lack thumbs. A nickname, "Messenger of the gods," comes from the monkey's habit of climbing high in trees and facing the sun at dawn and dusk.

Colobus behavior and facts

  • Colobus monkeys eat flowers, fruit and leaves, often in second-growth or degraded forests.
  • They usually live in a family group of one male and three or four females. He remains until displaced by a stronger male.
  • Colobus have a black body and white shoulders, backs and beard. Coats made from their fur were popular in the 1920s and 1930s.
  • The lack of a thumb is an adaptation for moving quickly through trees.
  • Their pouched stomach is an adaptation to aid leaf digestion.
  • Males use vocalizations to establish territory.

From birth to death

  • Birth interval: 20 or more months
  • Gestation: 6 months
  • Born white and turn black after infancy
  • Sexual maturity: males 4 years; females 6 years
  • Lifespan: 25 to 30 years, estimated

Vital statistics

  • Weight: 12 to 32 pounds
  • Length: 18 to 27 inches with a 20- to 35-inch tail


  • CITES App II, due to habitat destruction and human population growth
  • Studbook
  • Old World Monkey TAG
    Over-hunted and still sold in Africa

Colobus monkeys, the Oregon Zoo and you

Of the eight subspecies of colobus, the zoo houses two Colobus guereza kikuyuensis.

Find the Colobus monkeys in the Africa Rainforest exhibit. Their diet consists of a formulated leaf-eater biscuit for primates, carrots, sweet potato, greens and other fresh vegetables and lots of leafy browse. Since colobus are tree climbers, Kiku and Delu range all day on a complex climbing structure of logs and rope netting. Other enrichment is a water mister and a variety of hanging items. Colobus monkeys are threatened in their native region due to habitat encroachment by humans.


Kiku is a male colobus monkey born in 1991. He arrived at the zoo in 2002. Kiku and his mate of the time, Mali, produced three offspring, including Delu. Kiku is a hands-on dad, offering protection and playing with his children...