Golden Monkeys

Golden Monkeys were new to me. I was told not to confuse them with Golden Snub-nosed Monkeys. Until that moment, there was utterly no danger of that, since I’d never heard of Golden Snub-nosed Monkeys. I am now clear on the difference. You can Google them if you’re interested, but the two species are distinctly different-looking, and Golden Snub-nosed Monkeys live only in China, where they are critically endangered.

The Golden Monkeys that live in Central Africa are an endangered species according to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature.) Like too many species, their endangerment has been caused mainly by loss of habitat.

Golden Monkeys live in highland forest of the Virunga volcanic mountains, where the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda come together. There are four national parks there that are contiguous to each other: Mgahinga Gorilla NP (where we visited the gorillas,) Volcanoes NP, Virunga NP, and the Kahuzi-Biega NP.

Golden Monkeys are “Old World” monkeys. This means that they are part of a family of primates known as Cercopithecidae, which includes 24 genera and 138 species – the largest primate family. Baboons and macaques are also Old World monkeys, and Old World monkeys range across Asia and Africa. Old World and New World monkeys diverged from their common ancestor about 55 million years ago.

Cercopithecus Kandti is the scientific name for Golden Monkeys. They have not been studied or observed in the same way as the mountain gorillas, so their day-to-day habits are not nearly as well known. We know they travel in social groups of up to sixty monkeys, and they travel to follow food. Their food consists of fruit when available, and bamboo leaves all year long. It is believed that they also eat insects. At night, they sleep in tree tops or bamboo tops.

We had to hike about an hour to visit the Golden Monkeys, through fields again, then up into the woods, and into the bamboo forest. It was an easier trek than the gorilla trek – not as steep, and we didn’t have to climb rock walls – but it had been raining that morning, and the paths were very muddy and slippery. I fell a couple of times on the way up – my feet slipped out from under me and I landed on my fanny. Mud filled the grooves in the soles of my shoes, so I had very little traction. By the time we were coming down, the paths had dried a little, and were not as slippery.

Explaining about the art of finding the Golden Monkey troops.
We took paths around the edges of the farmers’ fields.
The Golden Monkeys were high up in the bamboo when we found them. They are the dark lumps.

They are beautiful monkeys, sociable and curious, at least when we were there. I would have liked to settle in and watch for a while, but visitors are only allowed an hour. (It’s the same with the gorillas.)

The monkeys were eating and jumping around, obviously excited that we were there. Their fur shows that they got wet in the rain, too. Cameras were snapping, including mine, so much of this post is comprised of golden monkey photos.

But their curiosity brought them near to us. Golden Monkeys, like most primates, can have very thoughtful expressions.
The humans and the Golden Monkeys observing one another.
Golden Monkey climbing around to get a better view of the humans in their midst.
Bamboo leaves are their main food.
Juvenile, feeling safer at the top of the bamboo clump.
Juvenile, learning to feed herself. That leaf looks good….
Looking for more.
Reflecting on his human visitors.

Eventually, we had to leave. Again, I would have liked to stay and watch them as they went about their day, but couldn’t.

So long. I hope “Au revoir.”

The trip down from anyplace I have climbed always seems shorter than the way up. We wound our way back through the bamboo forest and the farms. Our experience was well worth the hike, plus, I didn’t fall! Many, many times in Africa I have been moved by how beautiful the land is, and I hope that, even as it becomes developed, as it inevitably will, the people will conserve as much wild land as possible.

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