King Colobus

King Colobus

Western black-and-white colobus

Colobus polykomos
Population size
Life Span
23.5 yrs
6-11.4 kg
45-72 cm

The King colobus is a native African primate. This species is otherwise called the 'western black-and-white colobus' due to the black overall coloration of its body, contrasting with white colored chest and whiskers. This Old World monkey exhibits a prominent skull and a small rounded projection instead of the thumb. The King colobus displays oval eye-sockets and narrow superciliary ridges. The extensile nasal skin of this animal can extend to its mouth. This primate has complex sacculated stomach, but lacks pouches on its cheeks.


Endemic to Western Africa, these animals are found from Gambia to Côte d'Ivoire. Preferred habitat of King colobuses is lowland and mountain rainforest.

King Colobus habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

As diurnal animals, King colobuses are active during the day and sleep by night. These primates display highly social behavior, forming small groups of 1 - 3 mature males and 3 - 4 mature females. Males of this species live in dominance hierarchy system and don't tend to socialize. Females, on the other hand, live in very close bonds with each other and practice mutual grooming. Occasionally, various groups of the King colobuses come into conflicts, during which males exhibit some aggressive behavior such as territorial calling, thus displaying their strength and social status. Although males, usually give out these calls to ward off other groups or other males of their group, they may also use this form of communication as alarm calls, warning group members of potential threats.

Diet and Nutrition

The King colobuses are herbivores (folivores), their diet generally consists of soft, young leaves, growing on treetops. During certain seasons, the King colobuses also feed upon fruits and flowers.

Mating Habits

Year-round or during the dry season (December-May)
175 days
1 infant

The King colobuses exhibit both polygynous (one male mates with multiple females) and polygyandrous (individuals of both sexes have multiple mates) reproductive systems. While some populations may breed throughout the year, others have a well-defined mating system, giving birth during the dry season, between December and May. Gestation period lasts for 175 days, after which females give birth to a single infant, usually once every 2 years. The mother is very protective to her baby, suckling, protecting and grooming the young. She will also carry the newborn baby, which cannot walk independently. The age of reproductive maturity is 2 years old.


Population threats

One of the major threats to the population of this highly endangered species is destruction of its natural habitat for private farming, commercial agriculture as well as selective logging. Additionally, the King colobuses attract hunters for their meat and coat.

Population number

The King colobuse used to be widespread, but no estimate of population size is available for this primate. Currently, this species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List.

Ecological niche

Due to feeding upon leaves, fruits and seeds, King colobuses are likely to act as seed dispersers of the plants they consume. Then, these animals are an important prey species for local predators.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The name "colobus" derives from “ekolobóse” - a Greek word, literally meaning "he cut short" or "mutilated". Species of this genus are so called due to the reduced thumb, which is simply a small rounded projection that may occasionally exhibit a nail. Due to not having a thumb, these primates are able to move quickly among trees.
  • Newborn babies of this species display totally white overall fur, which gradually darkens, subsequently becoming black, except for the white colored tail and frame of the face.
  • Local people call these primates "messengers of God" due to their habit of continuously climbing up the treetops and returning to the ground.
  • The King colobus displays friendliness by belching in the face of another individual. Other forms of communication include the mating call, warning call as well as a song-like vocalization.
  • Before the onset of bad weather, colobuses usually become quiet, thus serving as reliable weather forecasters.
  • When moving between trees, these monkeys catapult themselves by branches, which serve as trampolines.


1. King Colobus Wikipedia article -
2. King Colobus on The IUCN Red List site -

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