Patas monkey

Patas Monkey

The body plan of a patas monkey bears a remarkable resemblance to that of a greyhound. It has the same long legs, narrow body and prominent rib cage. It is probably the fastest primate on earth, its long legs giving it a tremendous loping stride. With a russet-red coat, gray chin whiskers and white military mustache, it looks like a grumpy, retired British colonel.

The patas monkey, also known as the red or hussar monkey, is one of the most remarkable of all the African primates. It is exclusively terrestrial, lives in savanna country and can tolerate very arid conditions, being found right up to the southern edge of the Sahara desert. In their life style and habits patas monkeys are similar to baboons, which are also terrestrial monkeys.

Patas monkeys live in groups of about 15 with only a single, dominant, fully adult male. The patas male plays a role that is well suited to the open country where the group is exposed to attack by leopards and hyenas. He acts as a watchdog, standing on two feet to peer over the tall grass, sometimes using his tail as a tripod, or climbing into an isolated tree to spy out the land. If he sees a predator, he utters no noisy alarm bark, just a soft chirruping call that alerts the group. Then they crouch silently in the grass, remaining concealed while the male performs a conspicuous diversionary display. Bouncing noisily about in the branches of his tree, he rushes off in the opposite direction, giving time for the females and young of the group to make their escape.

Surplus males live in separate bands. Several of them will occasionally approach a troop of females and set about their single male in an attempt to drive him away and take his place. Such incidents are quite frequent and biologically desirable in that they prevent inbreeding.

The patas can climb small trees when alarmed but usually rely on their speed on the ground to escape from danger. They have been seen many miles from water, therefore they probably can exist under semi arid conditions. These monkeys are alert and seldom permit close approach. The young usually take refuge in small trees when pursued.

The patas monkeys are omnivorous, but can apparently subsist on either animal or vegetable food alone. They search on the ground for insects, grubs, buds, leaves, fruits, and roots, and probably young birds and eggs.

Gestation period is between 7 1/2 and 8 months. They reach sexual maturity at around four years of age.