Piliocolobus tephrosceles 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Primates Cercopithecidae

Scientific Name: Piliocolobus tephrosceles
Species Authority: (Elliot, 1907)
Common Name(s):
English Ashy Red Colobus, Uganda Red Colobus
French Colobe d'Ouganda
Spanish Colobo Rojo de Tanzania
Colobus tephrosceles Elliot, 1907
Procolobus badius ssp. tephrosceles (Elliot, 1907)
Procolobus pennantii ssp. tephrosceles (Elliot, 1907)
Procolobus rufomitratus ssp. tephrosceles (Elliot, 1907)
Tropicolobus gudoviusi Matschie, 1914
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: Modern taxonomic arrangements of the colobus monkeys either divide the red colobus and the Olive Colobus into two genera,  Piliocolobus  and Procolobus, respectively (e.g., Kingdon 1997, Groves 2005), or consider them to belong to one genus, Procolobus, with two subgenera (Procolobus for the Olive Colobus and Piliocolubus for the red colobus) (Grubb et al. 2003 [followed in the 2008 IUCN Red List], Grubb et al. 2013). The arrangement of using two separate genera in Groves (2001, 2005, 2007) is followed here.

This taxon was formerly a subspecies of a wider concept of P. rufomitratus which included subspecies rufomitratussemlikiensis, foai, langi, oustaleti, parmentieri, tephrosceles and tholloni (subspecies ellioti and lulindicus are no longer recognized). The former subspecies are now treated as distinct species following Groves (2007).

This is an updated assessment to reflect the change in genus name, the promotion of the subspecies to species-level and the inclusion of information previously contained within the former species-level assessment.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered B1ab(iii,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2008-07-01
Assessor(s): Struhsaker, T.
Reviewer(s): Mittermeier, R.A. & Rylands, A.B. (Primate Red List Authority)
Listed as Endangered because the species has an extent of occurrence less than 5,000 km², the subpopulations are severely fragmented (with no movement between them), and there is a continuing decline in overall numbers due primarily to predation by Chimpanzees in some of these protected areas, and habitat loss/degradation outside of the protected areas.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Piliocolobus tephrosceles is present on the eastern border of the Rift Valley in western Uganda and western Tanzania (Struhsaker and Grubb 2013). Five distinct subpopulations are known in western Uganda in Kibale, and in western Tanzania in Biharamulo on the southwestern shores of Lake Victoria, Gombe and Mahale Mountains on the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika, and Mbizi and Misheta on the Ufipa Plateau (Rodgers et al. 1984). However, recent surveys in Misheta found little if any forest left of any consequence in the area, and the red colobus population is probably now extinct there (Davenport et al. 2007). A subpopulation subsequently recorded in a forest patch near the village of Nsangu (post the surveys by Rodgers et al.) is probably also now extinct (Davenport et al. 2007). Davenport et al. (2007) reported a new and previously unrecorded population of P. tephrosceles in Mbuzi forest. They also surveyed the Chala forest, which was in poor condition; no primates were seen, although it is not known if red colobus ever existed there. This species may be present in eastern The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, but its presence has not yet been confirmed.
Countries occurrence:
Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Piliocolobus tephrosceles numbers at least 20,000 animals, with the largest and most viable population in Kibale Forest in Uganda where the population is estimated at ≥17,000 (Struhsaker 2005). Approximately 60% of the Kibale park represents suitable habitat for red colobus and published density estimates for them in this habitat range from 93-313/km² (Struhsaker 2005). Although Kibale would appear to have a healthy and viable population, long-term studies in two areas of the park indicate statistically significant declines in red colobus numbers. In the Ngogo study area, census data spanning nearly 24 years indicate a 43% decline in groups (Mitani et al. 2000), mainly due to Chimpanzee Pan troglodytes predation. A similar long-term study spanning 28 years at the Kanyawara site of Kibale also indicated a 40% decline in red colobus numbers within old growth and protected forest, as well as in nearby selectively logged forest (Chapman et al. 2000). Red colobus density in forest fragments on the western boundary of Kibale averaged 2.1 animals per hectare and ranged from 0 to 8.33 animals / ha (Chapman et al. 2006).

The red colobus in Gombe National Park also seem to have declined in numbers due to predation by Chimpanzees. Red colobus group sizes have declined by nearly 50% over a 25-year period (Stanford 1998) and 16–40% of them are killed each year by chimpanzees (Wrangham and Bergmann-Riss 1990).

Recent survey work by Davenport et al. (2007) shows that a total of at least 1,354 red colobus survive on the Ufipa Plateau, with 1,217 in Mbizi and 137 in Mbuzi.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:Yes

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species occurs in a wide variety of forest types, including riverine and gallery forest, forest-miombo savanna mosaic, old-growth lowland, mid-altitude, and montane moist rain forest, degraded secondary forests, and raphia palm swamps (Struhsaker and Grubb 2013).

In Kibale, Piliocolobus tephrosceles is most abundant in moist, old-growth, evergreen forest with emergent trees reaching 50 m in height (Struhsaker and Grubb 2013, and refs therein). It can persist in lightly logged forest as long as important food trees remain (Lee et al. 1988). Groups of P. tephrosceles average about 45-50 individuals in Kibale, and 55-59 individuals in Gombe (Struhsaker and Grubb 2013, and refs therein). The mean group size recorded in Mbizi was 41 and in Mbuzi, 34 (Davenport et al. 2007).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The main threat to Piliocolobus tephrosceles is habitat loss through selective logging of mature forest for timber, conversion to agricultural land, the production of charcoal, and forest fires. To some degree, hunting for meat and skins remains a threat (e.g., around Mbizi; Davenport et al. 2007). The taxon also appears to be heavily predated by chimpanzees. At Ngogo in Kibale National Park, the colobus live with the largest community of chimps recorded anywhere. They form huge hunting parties against the reds that result in the highest hunting success rate known for any large vertebrate predator (T. Struhsaker pers. comm.). The population in Gombe National Park appears to be seriously threatened with extinction because of predation by chimpanzees and because of the very small size (ca. 80 km²) and isolation of the Gombe park (Struhsaker 2005).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This taxon is listed on Appendix I of CITES and on Class B of the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

It is present in the 766 km² Kibale Forest National Park in Uganda, which may contain the only viable subpopulation; hunting by humans is virtually non-existant in this park (Struhsaker 2005). It is also present in the Gombe and Mahale National Parks in Tanzania. Long-term monitoring of the Ngogo situation is required, as well as a comprehensive, long-term monitoring programme for the colobus throughout Kibale. Kibale has the largest and perhaps only viable population of P. r. tephrosceles (although the population in Mbizi exceeds 1,000), and is the last hope for conservation of this taxon.

The southernmost population in the Mbizi forest should be protected; this is the only remaining montane forest of any size in Ufipa, and the only source of water for Sumbawanga’s growing population. There is also a need for immediate intervention if Mbuzi is not to be lost completely following the recent fate of both the Misheta and Nsangu forests. The forest patch is very small, isolated and has no protected status or management (Davenport et al. 2007).

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.5. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
1. Forest -> 1.6. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland
1. Forest -> 1.8. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Swamp
2. Savanna -> 2.1. Savanna - Dry
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
  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

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.2. Wood & pulp plantations -> 2.2.1. Small-holder plantations
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.3. Livestock farming & ranching -> 2.3.2. Small-holder grazing, ranching or 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 -> 5.3. Logging & wood harvesting -> 5.3.3. Unintentional effects: (subsistence/small scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.2. Problematic native species/diseases -> 8.2.2. Named species [ Pan troglodytes ]
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.1. Taxonomy
1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

Chapman, C.A., Balcomb, S.R., Gillespie, T.R., Skorupa, JP. and Struhsaker, T.T. 2000. Long-term effects of logging on African primate communities: A 28-year comparison from Kibale National Park, Uganda. Conservation Biology 14: 207–217.

Chapman, C.A., Wasserman, M.D., Gillespie, T.R., Speirs, M.L., Lawes, M.J., Saj, T.L. and Ziegler, T.E. 2006. Do nutrition, parasitism, and stress have synergistic effects on red colobus populations living in forest fragments? American Journal of Physical Anthropology 131: 525–534.

Davenport, T.R.B., Mpunga, N.E. and Machaga, S.J. 2007. Census and Conservation Assessment of the Red Colobus (Procolobus rufomitratus tephrosceles) on the Ufipa Plateau, Southwest Tanzania: Newly-discovered, Threatened and Extinct Populations. Primate Conservation 22: 97-105.

Groves C. 2001. Primate Taxonomy. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, USA.

Groves, C.P. 2005. Order Primates. In: D.E. Wilson and D.M. Reeder (eds), Mammal Species of the World, pp. 111-184. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Groves, C.P. 2007. The taxonomic diversity of the Colobinae of Africa. Journal of Anthropological Sciences 85: 7-34.

Grubb, P., Butynski, T.M., Oates, J.F., Bearder, S.K., Disotell, T.R., Groves, C.P. and Struhsaker, T.T. 2003. Assessment of the diversity of African primates. International Journal of Primatology 24(6): 1301-1357.

Grubb, P., Struhsaker, T.T. and Siex, K.S. 2013. Subgenus Piliocolobus Red Colobus Monkeys. In: T.M. Butynski, J. Kingdon and J. Kalina (eds), The Mammals of Africa. Volume II: Primates, pp. 125–128. Bloomsbury Publishing, London.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-1. Available at: (Accessed: 30 June 2016).

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

Lee, P.C., Thornback, J. and Bennett, E.L. 1988. Threatened Primates of Africa. The IUCN Red Data Book. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Mitani, J.C., Struhsaker, T.T. and Lwanga, J.S. 2000. Primate community dynamics in old growth forest over 23.5 years at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda: Implications for conservation and census methods. International Journal of Primatology 21: 269–286.

Rodgers, W.A., Struhsaker, T.T. and West, C.C. 1984. Observation on the red colobus (Colobus badius tephrosceles) of Mbisi Forest, south-west Tanzania. African Journal of Ecology 22: 87–194.

Stanford, C.B. 1998. Chimpanzee and Red Colobus: The Ecology of Predator and Prey. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Struhsaker, T.T. 2005. Conservation of Red Colobus and their habitats. International Journal of Primatology 26(3): 525-538.

Struhsaker, T.T. and Grubb, P. 2013. Procolobus rufomitratus Eastern Red Colobus. In: T.M. Butynski, J. Kingdon and J. Kalina (eds), The Mammals of Africa. Volume II: Primates, pp. 142-147. Bloomsbury Publishing, London.

Wrangham, R.W. and Bergmann-Riss, E.L. 1990. Rates of predation on mammals by Gombe chimpanzees, 1972–1975. Primates 38: 157-170.

Citation: Struhsaker, T. 2016. Piliocolobus tephrosceles. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T18256A92660998. . Downloaded on 24 January 2017.
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