Rungwecebus kipunji 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Primates Cercopithecidae

Scientific Name: Rungwecebus kipunji (Ehardt, Butynski, Jones & Davenport, 2005)
Common Name(s):
English Kipunji
French Kipunji
Spanish Kipunji
Lophocebus kipunji (Ehardt, Butynski, Jones & Davenport, 2005)
Taxonomic Source(s): Mittermeier, R.A., Rylands, A.B. and Wilson D.E. 2013. Handbook of the Mammals of the World: Volume 3 Primates. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
Taxonomic Notes: Africa's most recently discovered (2003) and described (2005) species and genus (2006) of monkey (Davenport 2005, Jones et al. 2005, Davenport et al.. 2006). Originally allocated to the genus Lophocebus (Jones et al. 2005), but later placed in the monotypic genus Rungwecebus by Davenport et al.. (2006) on the basis of molecular and morphological data. The genus to which R. kipunji belongs was questioned by Ehardt and Butynski (2006), but much further evidence supports the phylogenetic position and taxonomic status of Rungwecebus (Olson et al.. in press). The evolutionary implications of Rungwecebus being a sister taxon to Papio are considerable (Davenport in press, Olson et al.. in press).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered B1ab(i,ii,iii,iv,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Davenport, T.R.B. & Jones, T.
Reviewer(s): Mittermeier, R.A. & Rylands, A.B. (Primate Red List Authority)
The kipunji is more sparsely distributed than initially thought (Jones et al. 2005; Davenport et al. 2006). The small extent of occurrence in Ndundulu and the patchy distribution in Rungwe-Kitulo give grounds for considerable conservation concern. The total extent of occurrence of 20.6 km² is considerably less than the 100 km² required to meet the threshold for listing as Critically Endangered under criterion B. In addition, the range is severely fragmented (B1a), and remote sensing analyses of forest loss over the last 20 years in Rungwe-Kitulo leads us to infer there has been a decline, which is continuing. Moreover, the unmanaged state of Mt Rungwe, the continued forest destruction of Mt Rungwe and Livingstone Forest in Kitulo National Park, persistent hunting of monkeys across Rungwe-Kitulo, especially those which raid crops, as well as the highly precarious nature of the small population in Ndundulu, leads us to project a continuing decline (B1b) in the extent of occurrence; area of occupancy; area, extent and quality of habitat; the number of locations or subpopulations; and the number of mature individuals of the species. As a consequence, the species is here listed as Critically Endangered, in line with recommendations by Davenport et al. (in press).

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:A Tanzanian endemic known only from two populations separated by ca. 350 km of non-forested land. One population is at 1,750-2,450 m in 12.4 km² of Rungwe-Kitulo Forest (Davenport et al. 2008) in the Southern Highlands of south-western Tanzania (09.12º-09.18ºS, 33.67º-33.92ºE). The Rungwe-Kitulo Forest includes Mt. Rungwe Forest Reserve (150 km²) and the Livingstone Forest (191 km²), which lies within the 412 km² Kitulo National Park (Davenport 2002; Davenport and Bytebier 2004; Davenport et al. 2005, 2006, 2008). Mt. Rungwe and Livingstone Forest are connected by the Bujingijila Corridor, a two km wide degraded forest connection (Davenport 2005, 2006; Mwakilema and Davenport 2005). The Kipunji inhabits the wetter forest of south Mt. Rungwe and isolated groups are scattered in the north and south of Livingstone Forest (Davenport 2005; Jones et al.. 2005; Davenport et al.. 2006, 2008). Anecdotal evidence points to the historical presence of the species in other Southern Highland forests, though this is unconfirmed and recent extensive searches have found no new subpopulations in other forests (Davenport et al. 2008).

The other population of R. kipunji is at 1,300-1,750 m in the Vikongwa Valley, Ndundulu Forest (07.67º-07.85ºS, 35.17º-36.83ºE; ca. 180 km of closed forest), in the Kilombero Nature Reserve in the Udzungwa Mountains, south-central Tanzania (Jones et al.. 2005). The area known to be occupied by the species in the Ndundulu Forest is 8.2 km² (Davenport et al.. 2008; Jones et al. unpubl.). Previous and more recent research in Ndundulu Forest indicate the animal is absent from large parts of this forest (Jones 2006; Davenport et al.. 2008). The area of occupancy (AOO) achieved by the sum of the occupied grid squares is 10.79 km² in Rungwe-Kitulo and 3.18 km² in Ndundulu giving a combined species AOO of 13.97 km² (Davenport in press; Jones et al.. unpubl.). The species' extent of occurrence (EOO) was estimated to be 12.41 km² in Rungwe-Kitulo and 8.19 km² in Ndundulu, with the combined total EOO (species range) just 20.6 km² (Davenport et al.. 2008; Jones et al. unpubl.).
Countries occurrence:
Tanzania, United Republic of
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Surveys totalling 2,864 hours and covering 3,456 km of transect were undertaken by Davenport et al. (2008) to determine distribution and group numbers. In addition, 772 hours of simultaneous multi-group observational follows in Rungwe-Kitulo and Ndundulu forests enabled 209 total counts to be carried out. Davenport et al. (2008) estimated some 1,042 individuals in Rungwe-Kitulo, ranging from 25 to 39 individuals per group (µ = 30.65; SE = 0.62; n = 34), and 75 individuals in Ndundulu, ranging from 15 to 25 individuals per group (µ = 18.75; SE = 2.39; n = 4). The total Kipunji population was thus estimated to be 1,117 animals in 38 groups (µ = 29.39; SE = 0.85; n = 38). The Ndundulu population may no longer be viable and the Rungwe-Kitulo population is highly fragmented with isolated subpopulations remaining in degraded habitat (Davenport et al.. 2008).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Habitat ranges from degraded montane and upper montane forest from 1,750-2,450 m in Rungwe-Kitulo, to pristine submontane forest in Ndundulu (Davenport and Jones 2005; Jones et al. 2005; Jones 2006; Davenport et al.. 2006, 2008). In Rungwe-Kitulo, the canopy is often broken and between 10 and 30 m with emergents to 35 m. The Kipunji prefers steep-sided gullies and valley edges and is rarely found far from streams (Davenport and Butynski in press). Ridges and open areas are usually avoided. The forest has been greatly reduced by logging (Lovett 1986; McKone and Walzem 1994; Machaga et al.. 2004; Davenport 2005, 2006). Thick undergrowth is typical, with the tree fern Cyathea manniana, wild banana Ensete ventricosum, and large stands of bamboo Sinarundinaria alpina common in the south and south-east of Mt. Rungwe and the north-west of Livingstone (Davenport and Butynski in press; Gereau et al.. in press). The species rarely frequents the bamboo and leaves the forest only to raid nearby crops. In southern Mt Rungwe, annual rainfall ranges from ca. 185-280 cm and there is a distinct but short dry season from June to October. In Ndundulu, the Parinari excelsa-dominant forest is undisturbed and the canopy is unbroken, reaching a height of between 40 and 50 m (Jones 2006).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The threats to the Kipunji are considerable. The Rungwe-Kitulo forests are severely degraded. Logging, charcoal making, illegal hunting and unmanaged resource extraction are common (Davenport 2005, 2006; Machaga et al. 2004). The narrow Bujingijila Corridor linking Mt Rungwe to Livingstone Forest, and the corridors joining the northern and southern sections of Livingstone, are encroached by farmers and degraded (Davenport 2005; Jones et al.. 2005; Mwakilema and Davenport 2005). Without immediate conservation intervention these forests will be fragmented, resulting in isolated subpopulations some of which are unlikely to be viable over the long-term (Davenport et al.. in press). The Kipunji is hunted in the Southern Highlands (Davenport 2005, 2006), mainly as retribution for the crop-raiding of maize and the leaves of beans and potatoes in the first few months of the year. However, the monkey is also occasionally hunted for food.

Mt. Rungwe, while nominally a Forest Reserve, remains unmanaged and unprotected, although there are moves to upgrade its status. Although Ndundulu Forest is in excellent condition, and largely undisturbed (Davenport and Jones 2005; Davenport et al.. 2005; Jones, 2006), the species is present in low numbers (Davenport et al.. 2008). The reasons for this are unclear (Davenport and Jones 2005; Jones 2006). The gazettement in August 2007 of Kilombero Nature Reserve incorporating Matundu, Iyondo and West Kilombero Scarp (including Ndundulu) (Marshall et al.. 2007) may serve to further protect the species in Ndundulu. However, whether this population is viable in the long term is debatable (Jones 2006; Davenport et al.. 2008).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The Kipunji occurs entirely within protected areas, 48.4% within Kitulo National Park, 44.9% within Mt Rungwe Catchment Forest Reserve and 6.7% within the Kilombero Nature Reserve (Davenport et al. in press). However, only the national park has any current management activities and they remain limited, especially within the forest (Mwakilema and Davenport 2005). The focus of current Kipunji conservation work is the protection and restoration of the montane habitats of Mount Rungwe, especially the forest connections such as Bujingijila Corridor (Davenport 2005, 2006). Protecting these corridors is of the highest priority for the conservation of this genus/species. In addition, research into the reasons for, and viability of, the extremely small Udzungwa population, conservation education and long-term monitoring of both populations is important (Jones 2006; Davenport et al.. 2008). The Kipunji is being used as a 'flagship species' by the Wildlife Conservation Society's long-term Southern Highlands Conservation Programme in and around Rungwe-Kitulo, especially in education and awareness raising activities, and as part of a long-term monitoring programme.
It is listed on CITES Appendix II.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.9. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Montane
1. Land/water protection -> 1.2. Resource & habitat protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
2. Land/water management -> 2.3. Habitat & natural process restoration
3. Species management -> 3.2. Species recovery
4. Education & awareness -> 4.2. Training
4. Education & awareness -> 4.3. Awareness & communications
5. Law & policy -> 5.1. Legislation -> 5.1.2. National level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.2. National level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.3. Sub-national level
6. Livelihood, economic & other incentives -> 6.1. Linked enterprises & livelihood alternatives

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Systematic monitoring scheme:Yes
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:Yes
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.1. Shifting agriculture
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.2. Small-holder farming
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.3. Persecution/control
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.2. Gathering terrestrial plants -> 5.2.4. Motivation Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.3. Logging & wood harvesting -> 5.3.5. Motivation Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.1. Fire & fire suppression -> 7.1.3. Trend Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.6. Actions
2. Conservation Planning -> 2.1. Species Action/Recovery Plan
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓ 

♦  Food - animal
 Local : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Davenport, T. R. B. 2002. Tanzania's new national park to protect orchids. Oryx 36(3): 224.

Davenport, T. R. B. 2005. Finding kipunji. Africa Geographic 13(7): 56-61.

Davenport, T. R. B. 2006. Plants, primates and people. Conservation in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. Miombo 28: 7-8.

Davenport, T.R.B. 2013. Rungwecebus. In: T.M. Butynski, J. Kingdon and J. Kalina (eds), The Mammals of Africa. Volume II: Primates, pp. 212. Bloomsbury Publishing, London.

Davenport, T.R.B. and Butynski, T.M. 2013. Rungwecebus kipunji. In: T.M. Butynski, J. Kingdon and J. Kalina (eds), The Mammals of Africa. Volume II: Primates, pp. 213-217. Bloomsbury Publishing, London.

Davenport, T. R. B. and Bytebier, B. 2004. Kitulo Plateau, a first park for orchids. Orchid Review 112: 160-165.

Davenport, T. R. B. and Jones, T. 2005. The highland mangabey – Africa's first new monkey for 20 years further illustrates the exceptional value of Tanzania's forests. Arc Journal 18: 1, 6.

Davenport, T. R. B. De Luca, D. W., Jones, T.,Davenport, T. R. B., de Luca, D. W., Jones, T., Mpunga, N. E., Machaga, S. J., Kitegile, A. and Picton Phillipps, G. 2008. The Critically Endangered kipunji Rungwecebus kipunji of southern Tanzania: first census and assessments of distribution and conservation status. Oryx 42(3): 352-359.

Davenport, T. R. B., Jones, T., Mpunga, N. E., Machaga, S. J., Luca, D. W., de, Laizzer, R., Mndeme, A. and Mwakilema, W. S. 2005. The Highland Mangabey Lophocebus kipunji, Africa's 'newest' monkey. Unpublished Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Scientific Conference. Arusha, Tanzania.

Davenport, T. R. B., Stanley, W. T., Sargis, E. J., Luca, D. W., de, Mpunga, N. E., Machaga, S. J. and Olson, L. E. 2006. A new genus of African monkey, Rungwecebus: morphology, ecology and molecular phylogenetics. Science 312: 1378-1384.

Ehardt, C. L. and Butynski, T. M. 2006. The recently described highland mangabey, Lophocebus kipunji (Cercopithecoidea, Cercopithecinae): current knowledge and conservation assessment. Primate Conservation 21: 81-87.

Gereau, R.E., Kajuni, A.R., Davenport, T.R.B. and Ndangalasi, H.J. 2012. Lake Nyasa Climatic Region Floristic Checklist. Monographis in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 122(i-v): 1-118.

IUCN. 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: (Accessed: 5 October 2008).

Jones, T. 2006. Kipunji in Ndundulu Forest, Tanzania: distribution, abundance and conservation status. Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, Fauna and Flora International, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Jones, T. P., Ehardt, C. L., Butynski, T. M., Davenport, T. R. B., Mpunga, N. E., Machaga, S. J. and De Luca, D. W. 2005. The Highland Mangabey Lophocebus kipunji: A new species of African monkey. Science 308: 1161-1164.

Kingdon, J. 1997. The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press, San Diego, California, USA.

Machaga, S. J., Massawe, A. A. and Davenport, T. R. B. 2004. Medicine, meat & mahogany: understanding natural resource use on Mount Rungwe, southwest Tanzania. Society for Conservation Biology Abstracts 48: 20.

Marshall, A. R., Aloyce, Z., Mariki, S., Jones, T., Burgess, N., Kilahama, F., Massao, J., Nashanda, E., Sawe, C., Rovero, F. and Watkin, J. 2007. Tanzania's second Nature Reserve: improving the conservation status of the Udzungwa Mountains? Oryx 41: 429-430.

McKone, D. and Walzem, W. 1994. Report on a brief survey of the Catchment Forest Reserves of Mbeya Region, Tanzania. Available at:

Mwakilema, W. S. and Davenport, T. R. B. 2005. Managing Kitulo - How to protect Tanzania's newest and most unique National Park. Fifth Annual Scientific Conference. Arusha, Tanzania.

Olson, L. E., Sargis, E. J., Stanley, W. T., Hildebrandt, K. B. P. and Davenport, T. R. B. 2008. Additional molecular evidence supports the distinction between the recently described African primate Rungwecebus kipunji (Cercopithecidae, Papionine) and Lophocebus. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 48(2): 789-794.

Citation: Davenport, T.R.B. & Jones, T. 2008. Rungwecebus kipunji. In: . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T136791A4340286. . Downloaded on 23 September 2018.
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