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Gorilla Gifts

Gorillas are the largest of the living primates. They are ground-dwelling and predominantly herbivorous. They inhabit the forests of central Africa. Gorillas are divided into two species and either four or five subspecies. The DNA of gorillas is 98%–99% identical to that of a human, and they are the next closest living relatives to humans after the two chimpanzee species. Gorillas live in tropical or subtropical forests. Although their range covers a small percentage of Africa, gorillas cover a wide range of elevations.

Silverbacks are the strong, dominant troop leaders. Each typically leads a troop (group size ranges from 5 to 30) and is in the center of the troop's attention, making all the decisions, mediating conflicts, determining the movements of the group, leading the others to feeding sites and taking responsibility for the safety and well-being of the troop. Blackbacks may serve as backup protection.


Uganda Primates

East Africa as a whole is one of the most well-recognized safari destination for tourists looking to see a variety of wildlife that is rare and exotic. What most tourists don’t realize however is what sets Uganda apart from other destinations such as Tanzania and Kenya.

Thanks to its climate, Uganda has a colossal amount of rich and dense forest making it a perfect home to species that are absent from other parts of East Africa. Yet unlike similar forests in other parts of Africa, Uganda’s forests are easily accessible for viewing forest wildlife, especially primates!

Primates evolved Africa approximately 60 million years ago. The first primates were shrew-like animals that resemble the pottos and bush babies of Uganda Today. These more primitive primates are known as prosimians and were the first primates to exist in Africa. Monkeys did not evolve until 10 million years later at around 50 million years while apes were not found in Africa until 20 million years ago. One of the first known apes, proconsul, was discovered on Rusinga Island in Lake Victoria. Apes are easy to distinguish from monkeys by their Lack of a trail.

Primate-inhabited forests are under threat in Uganda, as they appear to be in other parts of the world because of the increasing number of people all struggling to find placing to live. The number of species living in tropical forest is much higher than elsewhere, and a proportionately large number of species are finding it harder to survive. Monkeys and ape of the forests are among the worst affected, with nearly one in four monkey species worldwide being very close to extinction. Forests have delicate ecosystems and many and many primate species have evolved a specialized lifestyle, causing them to react poorly to sudden changes in their environments such as loss of habitat and human encroachment.

Uganda is home to over 300 mammals, primates being exceptionally well represented among them. With around 20 species of primates, both day-dwelling (diurnal) and night-dwelling (nocturnal), the variety and bounty of Uganda’s primate population is unparalleled. The best Uganda primates are the great apes. Most rare is the mountain gorilla, Gorilla Beringei, which inhabits Bwindi Impenetrable National park and Mgahinga National Park in Southwestern Uganda. Mountain gorillas, one of three gorilla subspecies, are some of the most endangered animals today –with an estimated total population of 750, mountain gorillas are living on the brink of extinction.

Thousand of visitors travel to Bwindi every year to see the majestic mountain gorilla, helping the communities of Bwindi every year to see the largest of all the primate species, with adult sometimes weighing over 200 kilos.

Only slightly smaller is the chimpanzee, Pan Troglodytes, which inhabit most of the western forest of Uganda and can be seen at Kibaale National Park, Kaniyo Pabidi forest site near Murchison falls National Park, as well as Ngamba Island Chimpanzee sanctuary in Lake Victoria. Chimpanzees are extensively studied in the wild and in captivity and have been found to be closer to humans than any other creature as they share over 98% of our DNA. Unlike Gorilla, who eat mostly leaves; chimpanzees eat primarily fruit but have been witnessed hunting and killing the colobus monkey for food.

What is less well-known is that Uganda is also full of monkeys. There are five different types, or “genera”, which include the colobus, the guenons, the baboons, the Patas and the Mangbeys. Some of these monkeys are as widespread and easily seen as a domestic animal in others parts of the world. The vervet monkey, Cercopithecus aethiops, a light gray guenon, is thought to be to be the most numerous monkey species in the world and can be found every where in Uganda except the forest. Highly intelligent vervets have specialized calling systems distinguishing them between aerial and Land predators.

Patas monkeys, or Erthrocebus patas, look quite similar to vervets and also are terrestrial primates. The patas has a redish-brown coat, unlike the vervet grey coat, and is restricted to the month of Uganda, in kidepo and Murchison falls National parks. Baboons, or Papio anubis, are heavy and terrestrial primates, and are easily recognized because of their size and their long, canine snout. Like the vervet, baboons are highly adaptable and have become the most widespread primate in Africa. They too live in large, social groups and you will often see them feeding and grooming on the road side. The Olive baboon, the only type found in Uganda, can be found in all of the National parks except for the three mountainous Parks.

Probably the most viewable primate within the forest strata is the black and white colobus, colobus guereza. These beautiful primates live in most of the Ugandan forest, as well as river woodland. They dwell entirely in the trees, and are L,heost’s monkey is rarely visible because it usually dwells in dense secondary forest and undergrowth. It has a black face and backward-facing white whiskers and usually carries its tail upright. If one is lucky, they can catch a L,hoest’s monkey in kibale forest, Bwindi or Maramagambo forest with in Queen Elizabeth national park.

A large number of primates that live in Uganda’s forest are never seen by tourists because they sleep during the day and are only active at night. These include the bush baby (galago) of which there five different species in Uganda- and the potto (Perodicticus Potto). Both species are norcturnal, although the shrill cry of the bushaby is distinctive sound easily distinguished by their black bodies and long white tufted tails and shaggy white sides. They live in small groups and eat only leaves. Their diet is so specialized; their stomachs have different compartments to help them digest their leaves that they eat.

The black and white colobus aren’t the only colobus in the forest, either. The red colobus, piliocolobus badius, which live in large groups and are highly sociable, are only found in areas surrounding Kibale National Park. They have tufted red crowns and are often hunted by chimpanzees as food.

The blue monkey (Ceropithecus mitis) is the most widely dispersed forest guenon in East Africa. It is common in most Ugandan forest guenon in East Africa. It is common in most Ugandan forests except for Murchison falls and L. Mburo National and often lives in Union with other forest monkeys. Blue monkeys are not, in fact, blue but dark grey with white throat and chest, as well as tufted grey hair on their foreheads. In the forest, the males make a distinctive “pyow” sound as a territorial marker that can be heard from a far distance.

The red-tailed monkey, Cercopithecus ascinius, is also a forest guenon but its red. The red-tailed monkey is also brownish with white whiskers and has a heart shaped white patch on its nose. Red tailed monkeys are often found in Kibale forest, Semliki, Queen Elizabeth and Bwindi National Park, as well as Budongo Forest and Mpanga Forest.

Two other forest guenons are more infrequently seen- Debrazza’s monkey and (Cercopithecus Neglectus)L,Hooest’s monkey(Cercopithecus lheost). De Brazza’s monkey is thickset and shorter than the other guenons, with a white band across its brows and white moustache and beard. De brazza’s is primarily a West. African Species, but can be found near Mt. Elgon and Semliki National Parks.

L’Hoest’s monkey is rarely visible because it usually dwells in dense secondary forest and undergrowth. It has a black face and backward-facing white whiskers and usually carries its tail upright. If one is lucky, they can catch a L’Hoest’s monkey in kibaale Forest, Bwindi or Mamagambo Forest within Queen Elizabeth National park.

A large number of primate that live in Uganda’s forests are never seen by tourists because they sleep during the day and are only active at night. These include the bushbaby(Galago)- of which there are five different species in Uganda – and the Potto (Perodicticus Potto). Both species are nocturnal, although the shrill cry of the Bush baby is distinctive sound of the African night. Both Primates are more closely related to the more primitive prosimians, like the lemurs of Madagascar. At Kibaale forest, there are guided night walks on which one can see these nocturnal primates.

As one can clearly see, Uganda is rich with primates. Each primate species has its own quirks, behaviors and each species can provide a primatologist with a lifetime’s worth of study and research material. The scientists that contribute to the international primatological society each understand how vital their role is- better understanding of each primate species will enable them to spread awareness and help ensure that primate’s survival. The responsibility, however, doesn’t lie with the Scientist alone.

Wildlife parks and forest reserves have been created to enable their animal inhabitants to survive and thrive while also serving to educate the public – tourist and local communities alike –about the wonder each species has to offer. These sites are set up initially to enable tourists to share in the experience, but these sites and rangers employed are all that stands between some of these primates and extinction. And each of them relies on visitors to maintain it’s services to the wildlife communities.

About the Author
Tanah Hadijah is a free lance author found in Africa. She is so much interested in exploring the biodiversity of the ecosystems in most of the tropical african countries. She has traveled and written several articles about her travel and findings. More of her articles can be found on Uganda Safari guide and directory http://www.abacusvacations.com


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