Uganda Primate Facts

Primates are mammalian species which are classified by scientists as belonging to the Animalia Kingdom. They poses mammalian characteristics of endothermy-internal regulation of body temperature, placental-producing live young ones, and having mammalian glands that produce milk from where they feed their young ones.
In Uganda there 13 diurnal species and 6 nocturnal species of primates wide spread in different parts of Uganda. These include;


Scientifically these primates are called Pan Troglodytes. This black coated ape is noisy and curious, intelligent and social. The chimpanzee is the mammal most like a human and that’s why in Uganda we refer to them as “our cousins”. The chimpanzee has a thickset body with long arms, short legs and no tail. Much of its body is covered with long black hair, but the face, ears, fingers and toes are bare. Young chimpanzees are browner if compared with adults. Chimpanzees have hands that can grip firmly on branches of trees and they mostly live in tropical rain forests and woodlands. Chimps are both arboreal and terrestrial. They spend of their daytime hours on the ground. They usually walk quickly on all fours for long distances and occasionally walk erect for short distances. They also live in groups also known as troops comprising of some 30 to 80 individuals. These large groups are made up of smaller, very flexible groups of just a few animals, perhaps all females, all males or a mixed group. In Uganda there are habituated families of Chimpanzees where tourists can go for Chimpanzee tracking. These include Budongo and Kaniyo Pabidi forests near Murchison Falls National park, Kibale Forest National park and the Kyambura gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park.


All these monkeys in Uganda are members of the family Cercopithecidae (Old World monkeys). They fall into five genera: Colobus (closely related to the leaf eating monkeys of Asia), Cercopithecus (guenons), Papio (baboons), Erythrocebus (patas) and Cerocebus (Mangabeys). Some of these monkeys are nocturnal while others are diurnal. Important species in Uganda include; Vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops) De Brazza’s monkey (cercopithecus neglectus) Blue monkey (cercopithecus aethiops) L’Hoest monkey (cercopithecus lhoesti) Red-tailed monkey (cercopithecus ascinius) Red colobus (piliocolobus badius) Black-and-white colobus (colobus guereza) Patas monkey (erythrocebus patas).

In Uganda monkeys live in different habitats which include both tropical rain forests and savanna grasslands. However they are commonly found in Forests such as Kibale topical moist forest, Bwindi Impenetrable forest, Mabira forest, Buvuma forests, Kaniyo Pabidi forest, Budongo forest, Bugoma forest among others. In general monkeys are well exceptionally represented in Uganda as a safari destination. The Kibaale tropical forest boasts the greatest primate diversity in the whole of East Africa.


Scientifically these primates are called Papio specie. Baboons are widely spread and very common in Uganda. Though common in most parts of the country the olive baboon (Papiocynocephalus anubis) is the only type found in Uganda. The baboons in Uganda commonly interact with people. They live in forest reserves such as Busitema, and can be found along the roadsides. Baboons are larger in size (14 to 30 inches at the shoulder) with a dog-like head. Their weight varies between 50 to 100 pounds. Males move frequently in large troops in search for social dominance. They live in individual groups which may even be a large as 50 individuals. Baboons spend their day eating, socializing, playing, and traveling. They are omnivores feeding on both plant materials and meat from small mammals as well as fish.

Patas monkey (Erythrocebus patas)

This is another terrestrial primate restricted to the dry savanna of north-central Africa. The patas can be confused with the vervet monkey, but the only differentiating feature is that it has a lankier build, a light reddish-brown coat, and a black stripe above the eyes (the vervet is greyer and has a black mask). In Uganda, the patas monkey is restricted to the extreme north, where it can be seen in Kidepo and Murchison falls national parks, as well as the Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve. It is also known as the hussar monkey. The race found in Uganda is the Nile patas or nisras (E. p. pyrhonotus)

Vervet monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops)

This light-grey guenon is readily identified by its black face and the male’s distinctive blue genitals. Associated with a wide variety of habitats, it is the only guenon you are likely to see outside of the forests and it is thought to be the most numerous monkey species in the world. The vervet monkey is also known as the green, tantalus, savanna and grivet monkey. More than 20 races are recognized and some authorities group these races into four distinct species. At least four races are found in Uganda;the black faced vevet (C. a. centralis), Naivasha vervet (C. a. callidus), Jebel Mara tantalus (C. a. marrensis) monkeys are wide spread and common in Uganda, even outside of the national parks, but they are absnt from forest interiors and Afro-alpine habitats.

Blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis)

The blue monkey is the most widespread forest guenon in East Africa-uniform dark blue-grey in colour except for its white throat and chest patch, with thick fur and backward-projecting hair on its forehead. The blue monkey is common in most Ugandan forests, where it lives in troops of between four and twelve animals and frequently associates with other primates. It is also known as the diademed guenon, samango monkey, Sykes’s monkey, gentle monkey and white throated guenon (the last regarded as a separate species by some authorities). Over 20 races are identified of which three are found in Uganda, including the striking and very localized golden monkey, which is more-or-less restricted to bamboo forests in the Virunga Mountains. Blue monkeys occur in all but two of Uganda’s national parks (Murchison falls and Lake Mburo being the exceptions) and in practically every other forest in the country.

Red tailed monkey (Cercopithecus ascinius)

Another widespread forest guenon , the red tailed monkey is brownish in appearance with white cheek whiskers, a coppery tail and a distinctive white, heart shaped patch on its nose, giving rise to its more descriptive alternative name of black-cheeked white nosed monkey. It is normally seen singly in pairs or in small family groups, but it also associates with other monkeys and has been known to accumulate in groups of up to 200. The race found in Uganda is C. a. schmidti. Red tailed and blue monkeys regularly interbreed in Kibale forest national park. Red tailed monkey occur in kibale forest, Bwindi, Semliki, and queen Elizabeth national parks as well as Budongo, Mpanga and several other forest reserves.

De Brazza’s monkey (Cercopithecus neglectus)

This spectacular forest guenon has a relatively short tail, a hairy face with a reddish-brown patch around its eyes, a white band across its bow and a distinctive white moustache and beard. Primarily a West African species, De Brazza’s monkey is very localized in East Africa, most likely to be seen in the vicinity of Mount Elgon and Semliki national parks.

L’Hoest’s Monkey (Cercopithecus lhoesti)

This handsome guenon is less well known and more difficult to see than most relatives, largely because of its preference for dense secondary forest and its terrestrial habits. It has a black face and back ward-projecting white whiskers that partially cover its ears, and is the only guenon which habitually carries its tail in an upright position. In Uganda, L’Hoest monkey is most likely to be seen in Kibale forest, Bwindi or Maramagambo forest in Queen Elizabeth National park.

Grey-cheeked mangabey (Cercocebus algigena)

This greyish-black monkey has few distinguishing features. It has baboon-like mannerisms, a shaggier appearance than any guenon, light-grey cheeks and a slight mane. Grey-cheeked Mangabeys live in lowland and mid-altitude forests. In Uganda, they are common, as well as in Semliki National Park. The race found in Uganda is also known as Johnston’s mangabey (C. a. Johnston).

Black-and-white colobus monkey (Colobus guereza)

This beautiful marked and distinctive monkey has a black body, white facial markings, long white tail and, in some races, a white side-stripe. It lives in small groups and is almost exclusively arboreal. An adult is capable of jumping up to 30m, a spectacular sight with its white tail streaming behind. This is probably the most common and widespread forest monkey in Uganda, occurring in most sizeable forest patches and even in well developed riparian woodland. The Rwenzori race of the closely related Angola colobus (colobus angolensis) occurs alongside the black-and-white colobus in forested parts of the Rwenzori National park.

Red Colobus monkey (Piliocolobus badius)

This relatively large red-grey monkey has few distinguishing features other than its slightly tufted crown. It is highly sociable and normally lives in scattered troops of 50 or more animals. About 15 races of red colobus are recognized by some authorities to be distinct species. In Uganda, Red colobus monkeys are largely restricted to Kibale Forest National park and environments, where they are especially common in the Bigodi wetland sanctuary, though they do also occur in small numbers in Semliki National Parks.


Bush babies or galagos (Galago senegalensisa) form one of the primate species of small attractive arboreal primates native to sub-Saharan Africa. They are gray, brown, or reddish to yellowish brown, with large eyes and ears, long hind legs, soft, woolly fur, and long tails. Bush babies are also characterized by the long upper portion of the feet (tarsus) and by the ability to fold their ears. They are nocturnal primate species. They feed mostly on fruits, insects, and even small birds, but a major component of the diet of most species is gum (tree exudates). In Uganda there are five bush baby species with the lesser bush baby as the most common in all Uganda’s Savannah reserves. In Kibale and Bwindi forests species identified are; the eastern needled-clawed bush baby, Thomas bush baby and the Dwarf bush baby, they also appear in Lake Mburo and Queen Elizabeth National Parks. A guided night walk in Kibale Forest can enable you seeing these rare primates which are characterized by large sparkling eyes which does not much with their cry.


scientifically these primates are also referred to as Perodicticus potto. The word “potto” originates from an African word “Pata” meaning a tailless ape. Like Bush babies they have nocturnal habits (i.e. most active at night). During the day pottos sleep in the leaves of trees and almost never descend from trees. They are slow moving and always carefully grip on tree branches. In Uganda, pottos can best be seen in Kibale forest during night guided walks. Other areas where these primates have been recorded include Bwindi and Queen Elizabeth National park.

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