White-thighed colobus, Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary, Ghana
One of the 25 most endangered primates in the world.
Colobus are leaf monkeys they don’t generally eat fruit, only a very small amount of unripe fruit because ripe fruit can kill them by causing bloat. Therefore they don’t come down from the trees to be fed, unlike the Lowe’s monkeys, even so seeing these monkeys at Boabeng-Fiema is easy, they hang around in the trees surrounding the village because they know they are safe. They don’t flee when they see people so it doesn’t take much effort to find them, they are just there in the trees behind peoples’ houses,
I suspect many visitors don’t pay as much attention to them as they don’t interact with people in the way that the Lowe’s monkeys do. So, I wonder how many of the tourists who come to Boabeng-Fiema actually realise that this particular species of colobus, the white-thighed colobus or Geoffroy’s black and white colobus (Colobus vellerosus) is actually now regarded as one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world. That these beautiful, black and white monkeys are on the brink of extinction. They were once widely distributed within Ghana and also in eastern Côte d’Ivoire to the west and in Togo and Benin to the east, however now only tiny remnant populations remain. A combination of habitat destruction and bushmeat hunting has severely reduced the populations of all monkey species in this region, colobus being conspicuous and loud have been hard hit.
In Ghana they have been all but wiped out by bushmeat poachers from almost all forest reserves and some of the national parks. Small numbers apparently still occur in the Ankasa Conservation Area in the southwest and in Kakum National Park, they are certainly not common in either (I neither saw nor heard any in either park). It’s thought that this population at Boabeng-Fiema that numbered 365 in 2007 is in fact the only stable population left in West Africa, making this monkey sanctuary incredibly important for the survival of these colobus. Unless protection can be stepped up it’s likely that more populations could disappear, further endangering this species. So long as the monkeys continue to be protected at Boabeng-Fiema there is hope that this colobus species will survive for the foreseeable future and not become globally extinct as has likely happened to their relative the Miss Waldron’s red colobus, that once inhabited many of the same forests in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
I’m not too surprised visitors aren’t aware that these monkeys are close to extinction, I suspect even the local guides at Boabeng don’t know just how endangered the colobus monkeys now are, certainly my Bradt guidebook to Ghana makes no mention of the fact that they are very rare. When the IUCN assessed the species in 2008, they classified it as vulnerable and this is still what they state on their Red List website, but this classification is clearly out of date, because in 2017 the IUCN Primate Specialist Group published a report “Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates 2016-2018” that included this species of colobus.