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Kipunji [1] [2]
Kipunji walking h.jpg
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Cercopithecidae
Subfamily: Cercopithecinae
Tribe: Papionini
Genus: Rungwecebus
Davenport, 2006
R. kipunji
Binomial name
Rungwecebus kipunji
(Jones et al., 2005)
Kipunji area.png
Kipunji range

The kipunji (Rungwecebus kipunji), also known as the highland mangabey, is a species of Old World monkey that lives in the highland forests of Tanzania. The kipunji has a unique call, described as a 'honk-bark', which distinguishes it from its relatives, the grey-cheeked mangabey and the black crested mangabey, whose calls are described as 'whoop-gobbles'.


The kipunji was independently discovered by researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Georgia, and Conservation International, in December 2003 and July 2004, making it the first new African monkey species discovered since the sun-tailed monkey in 1984. [1] Originally assigned to the genus Lophocebus , [1] [4] genetic and morphological data showed that it is more closely related to the baboons (genus Papio) than to the other mangabeys in the genus Lophocebus. Scientists subsequently assigned it to a new genus, Rungwecebus, named after Mount Rungwe, where it is found. [2] The kipunji is the first new monkey genus to be discovered since Allen's swamp monkey in 1923. [5]

Zoologists were initially skeptical of the existence of the kipunji until its discovery, as traditional tales of the Nyakyusa people described the monkey as both real and mythical. [6]

Physical description

Adult male kipunjis have been observed at an average length of 85 to 90 cm and are estimated to weigh between 10 and 16 kg. The kipunji's relatively long pelage is light or medium brown with white on the end of the tail and the ventrum. Pelage close to the hands and feet tends to be a medium to dark brown. Hands, feet, and face are all black. These primates do not appear to show any sexual dimorphism in relation to pelage coloration. [4] [2]

One feature, in combination with their pelage coloration, that helps to separate kipunjis from their Cercocebus and Lophocebus relativess is the broad crest of hair on the crown of their heads. [2]


Around 1,100 of the animals live in the highland Ndundulu Forest Reserve, a forest adjacent to Udzungwa Mountains National Park, and in a disjunct population 250 miles away on Mount Rungwe and in Kitulo National Park, which is adjacent to it. The forest at Rungwe is highly degraded, and fragmentation of the remaining forest threatens to split that population into three smaller populations. The Ndundulu forest is in better shape, but the population there is smaller.


The kipunji is classified as an endangered species by the IUCN. [3] In 2008, a Wildlife Conservation Society team found that the monkey's range is restricted to just 6.82 mi2 (17.7 km2) of forest in the two isolated regions, the Ndundulu forest and the Rungwe-Livingstone forest. [7] The Ndundulu forest is the smaller of the two and was found to support a population of 75 individuals, ranging from 15 to 25 individuals per group. The Rungwe-Livingstone forest is suspected to contain 1,042 individuals in Rungwe-Kitulo, ranging from 25 to 39 individuals per group. All areas where the kipunji is found are considered protected areas, but no management operations are currently in effect.

Several factors contribute to the projected decline of the species, including predation, habitat destruction, and hunting. The kipunji has only two known predators: crowned eagles ( Stephanoaetus coronatus ) and leopards ( Panthera pardus ). The biggest threats to the species come from human activities. Logging for timber and charcoal production are the most prominent threats, but locals are also known to hunt the kipunji due to its crop-destroying habits or simply as a food source. Continued habitat loss is anticipated to cause a loss of the Bujingijila Corridor that links two populations in the Mount Rungwe and Livingstone forests.

The species was included in the list of "The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates" in 2006 and 2008. [8]

Related Research Articles

Old World monkey Family of mammals

Old World monkey is the common English name for a family of primates known taxonomically as the Cercopithecidae. Twenty-four genera and 138 species are recognized, making it the largest primate family. Old World monkey genera include baboons, macaques, and mabahlls. Common names for other Old World monkeys include the talapoin, guenon, colobus, douc, vervet, gelada, mangabey, langur, mandrill, surili (Presbytis), patas, and proboscis monkey. Phylogenetically, they are more closely related to apes than to New World monkeys. They diverged from a common ancestor of New World monkeys around 55 million years ago.

<i>Mandrillus</i> Genus of Old World monkeys

Mandrillus is a genus of large Old World monkeys distributed throughout central and southern Africa, consisting of two species: M. sphinx and M. leucophaeus, the mandrill and drill, respectively. Mandrillus, originally placed under the genus Papio as a type of baboon, is closely related to the genus Cercocebus. They are characterised by their large builds, elongated snouts with furrows on each side, and stub tails. Both species occupy the west central region of Africa and live primarily on the ground. They are frugivores, consuming both meat and plants, with a preference for plants. M. sphinx is classified as vulnerable and M. leucophaeus as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Cercopithecinae Subfamily of Old World monkeys

The Cercopithecinae are a subfamily of the Old World monkeys, which comprises roughly 71 species, including the baboons, the macaques, and the vervet monkeys. Most cercopithecine monkeys are limited to sub-Saharan Africa, although the macaques range from the far eastern parts of Asia through northern Africa, as well as on Gibraltar.

Grey-cheeked mangabey Species of Old World monkey

The grey-cheeked mangabey, also known as the white-cheeked mangabey, is an Old World monkey found in the forests of Central Africa. It ranges from Cameroon down to Gabon. The grey-cheeked mangabey is a dark monkey, looking in shape overall like a small, hairy baboon. Its thick brown fur is almost black in its forest home, with a slightly rufus/golden mane around the neck. The sexes are similar, with the males slightly larger than the females.

Mangabey index of animals with the same common name

The term mangabey can refer to three different genera of Old World monkeys in the tribe Papionini.

Sooty mangabey Species of mammal

The sooty mangabey is an Old World monkey found in forests from Senegal in a margin along the coast down to the Ivory Coast.

Crested mangabey Genus of Old World monkeys

The crested mangabeys are West African Old World monkeys belonging to the genus Lophocebus. They tend to have dark skin, eyelids that match their facial skin, and crests of hair on their heads. Another genus of mangabeys, Cercocebus, was once thought to be very closely related, so much so that all the species were placed in one genus. However, Lophocebus species are now understood to be more closely related to the baboons in genus Papio, while the Cercocebus species are more closely related to the mandrill. In 2006, the highland mangabey was moved from Lophocebus to a new genus, Rungwecebus.

Mount Rungwe

Mount Rungwe is a volcanic mountain in Mbeya Region, in Tanzania's Southern Highlands. At an altitude of 2,981 metres (9,780 ft), it is southern Tanzania's second-highest peak. Rungwe's volcano is currently inactive.

Uganda mangabey species of mammal

The Uganda mangabey is a species of Old World monkey found only in Uganda and in the Minziro Forest Reserve, just over the border in Tanzania. This crested mangabey was previously thought to just be a population of the grey-cheeked mangabey. Colin Groves upgraded the Ugandan population to the new species L. ugandae on 16 February 2007. This species is significantly smaller than the grey-cheeked mangabey, with a shorter skull and smaller face. 2008 was the most recent year in which the International Union for Conservation of Nature assessed the conservation status of L. albigena, describing it as being of least concern, and the status of L. ugandae has not been assessed separately.

Papionini Tribe of Old World monkeys

The Papionini are a tribe of Old World monkeys that includes several large monkey species, which include the macaques of North Africa and Asia, as well as the baboons, geladas, mangabeys, kipunji, drills, and mandrills, which are essentially from sub-Saharan Africa. It is typically divided into two subtribes: Macacina for the genus Macaca and its extinct relatives and the Papionina for all other genera.

Ugandan red colobus Species of Old World monkey

The Ugandan red colobus or ashy red colobus is an endangered species of red colobus monkey, recognised as a distinct species since 2001. There is disagreement however over taxonomy with many considering the Ugandan red colobus to be a subspecies. The Ugandan red colobus is an Old World monkey which is found in 5 different locations across Uganda and Tanzania.

Agile mangabey Species of Old World monkey

The agile mangabey is an Old World monkey of the white-eyelid mangabey group found in swampy forests of Central Africa in Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, and DR Congo. Until 1978, it was considered a subspecies of the Tana River mangabey. More recently, the golden-bellied mangabey has been considered a separate species instead of a subspecies of the agile mangabey.

Osman Hills mangabey Species of Old World monkey

The Osman Hill's mangabey, also known as the rusty-mantled mangabey, is a species of crested mangabey in the family Cercopithecidae with a restricted distribution in West Africa.

Kitulo National Park


Niger Delta red colobus Species of Old World monkey

The Niger Delta red colobus is a critically endangered species of colobus monkey endemic to the western part of the Niger Delta. It is threatened by hunting and habitat loss.

Southern Rift montane forest–grassland mosaic

The South Malawi montane forest-grassland mosaic is a montane grasslands and shrublands ecoregion of Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia.

The Rungwe dwarf galago is a newly-identified species of dwarf galago. Specimens were first collected in the 1930s, but were identified as different species. A formal description of the species is presently being made.


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