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Red Colobus monkeys (Piliocolobus spp.) are the most threatened group of primates in Africa. They are facing an extinction crisis requiring urgent, targeted, and coordinated action. These beautiful, leaf-eating monkeys are unique to the forests of sub-Saharan Africa, where they range from Senegal on the Atlantic coast to the island of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean.

There are 18 taxa of red colobus monkeys across the forested belt of Africa. The genus is highly threatened with extinction as over 75 percent of the 18 taxa are either Endangered or Critically Endangered.

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Their distribution covers over 85% of Africa’s primate species. Each forested bioregion of Africa is represented by its endemic red colobus.

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Red colobus are the ideal flagship primate species group for Africa because:

  • their distribution covers over 85% of Africa’s primate species;

  • each forested bioregion of Africa is represented by its endemic red colobus;

  • they are the preverbal canary in the coalmine, being the first large mammal to be extirpated from an area due to hunting as they are slow, large-bodied and conspicuous; therefore can be monitor to serve as an early warning indicator, and;

  • the genus is the most threatened primate genus in Africa receiving insufficient conservation attention;

  • they are a 'Cinderella species' i.e. are physically attractive to humans yet not promoted as a flagship species.

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Despite the threats red colobus faces across their range, they are unknown to most people; only a few populations have been studied in detail. It is therefore critical that conservation measures using the best sustainability approaches be implemented across their range to avoid further declines and extinctions of red colobus monkeys, other underlying species and habitats.

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