There are seven recognised species of Cercocebus mangabey monkeys, all are threatened with a high risk of extinction according to their IUCN Red List status, and all are relatively understudied.
They are found across Africa, from the sooty mangabey in the west (Ivory Coast) to the Tana River mangabey in the east (Kenya). Also known as ‘white-eyelid’ mangabeys for their distinctive white-eyelids which they flash in threat displays; they are highly terrestrial, spending a large amount of time on the forest floor rather than up in the trees like the majority of primates. Part of the reason they are so little-known is that they are usually found deep in the forest, in regions that are difficult to access and not often visited by tourists or researchers.
The Bristol Zoological Society has partnered with the Sanje Mangabey Project (established in 2006) to aid in the conservation of one of the least studied of the Cercocebus mangabeys. The Sanje mangabey (Cercocebus sanjei) is endemic to the Udzungwa Mountains of south-central Tanzania; also known as the Galapagos of Africa, for their high level of endemism in such a small area. The mangabeys are listed as Endangered due to declining population size, habitat loss and forest fragmentation. The species is divided between two isolated forest block populations: the well-protected Udzungwa Mountains National Park and the relatively unprotected Udzungwa Scarp Nature Reserve.
The first and only survey of the species was completed in 2000 and estimated the population size to be between 1300-3500 individuals. Seventeen years on, it is time for a reassessment, as the pressures facing this region intensify. For example, the human population in the Kilombero Valley is growing at a rapid rate; i.e., between 1964 and 2015 the population rose from 56,000 to more than half a million people, most moving to the region to set up small-scale farms that require clearing of the forest. Given the conservation threats, small population size and restricted range of this species, it is essential that we work with local and international stakeholders to ensure the protection of the Sanje mangabey and its remaining habitat in the Udzungwa Mountains.
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