Red-tailed Monkeys in Uganda are scientifically called Cercopithecus Ascanius. They live in groups or families dominated by an alpha male. The groups are always made of about 20 to 30 members, with the majority being females.

The species make noise to alert fellow members of any potential danger within their territories. Red-tails can reach 17 inches in length and weigh up to 10 kilograms, with males bigger than females. The name “red-tail” comes from the brownish-reddish fur on their tail. They have a black face, long hind legs, large white cheek pouches, a yellow-brown coat, a round head with bluish skin around the eyes and a white nose.

The cheek pouches are used to store food, while the long tail assists in their movement on trees. They use nose-to-nose touching as a greeting sign. They open their eyes widely, raise eyebrows and nod their heads when they want to chase any outsider from their territory.

The biggest enemies of Red-tailed monkeys are chimpanzees, leopards and eagles, which eat them. Other threats include deforestation, and farmers who kill them to protect their crops like maize, bananas and millet. Red-tailed Monkeys in Uganda mainly feed on fruits, plants, flowers and insects.

They reach sexual maturity at four years in females and six months in males. Their pregnancies last six months and they give birth to a single offspring. All other females in the group are responsible for raising the young ones. Females always stick to their family groups while grown up males leave the groups to form their own groups.

How to Identify a Red-tailed monkey

Red-tailed monkeys are also known as red-tailed guenons, and are considered to be a member of the guenon group of monkeys. They are small and agile, weighing between 2 and 6kg and with a head to body length of between 41 and 48cm. The males are slightly larger and heavier than the females.

They are easily distinguished amongst similar species, by the spot of white on their nose, white, elaborate cheek fur and red tails. Their faces tend to be black, but are bluish around the eyes. Their coat is speckled with a yellowish brown colour with paler under parts and grey legs.

Social Structure

The many means through which red-tailed monkeys convey information are indicative of the nature of the information being sent. These monkeys use both oral and physical signals to express dominance, submission, and greetings within groups. Red-tailed monkeys talk to each other using their voices. The monkey who is not in charge makes a soft, pulsing call to the monkey who is in charge. Two red-tailed guenons greeting each other by touching noses is an example of how well they can talk with their bodies. Affectionate gestures like this can lead to more light-hearted interactions. One way to keep yourself safe from possible danger is to use visual signals to tell others to stay away.

The smallest groupings of red-tailed monkeys usually consist of one male and four females, but they join larger groups from time to time. Where food is abundant they have been seen in large numbers of up to 228 individuals per square kilometer.
This seems to indicate that they have very flexible social groupings and there does not appear to be problems of territorial disputes amongst the groups and individuals. Males are known to remain solitary for a time, until they find a new group of females to join. Females become solitary when they are old or heavily pregnant to avoid harassment by others in the group.


The female red-tailed monkeys show no physical or behavioral evidence of sexual receptiveness apart from some menstrual bleeding. Breeding appears to take place seasonally during the driest time of year and after a gestation period of between 120 to 130 days; the female gives birth to generally one infant. Offspring are born with a shaggy grey-coloured coat that becomes similar in coloration (although fainter), to the adult’s coat by about 3 months.

What the Red-tailed Monkeys Eat

Red-tailed monkeys live on the fruit, flowers, flower buds, shoots, sap and leaves of a wide variety of trees and shrubs, but also include insects such as grasshoppers and ants in their diet. They forage for food in trees and shrubs, and will venture into the upper canopy of trees for fruits and flowers.
Where forests have been cleared for agriculture or food becomes scarce, red-tailed monkeys have been known to raid crops such as banana, millet, maize, bean, pumpkin, pineapple and passion fruit, and will also dig up roots of plants and vegetables.

Red-tailed Monkeys in Uganda
Red-tailed Monkeys in Uganda

Their main activity time is in the early morning and late evening, and in some areas they have learnt to make nocturnal raids of crops. They feed continuously over long periods of time, but are known to rest during the middle of the day. When raiding crops they are able to fill their cheek pouches, so that a quick escape can be made and the food consumed once they reach safety.

Where to see Uganda’s red-tailed monkeys

With a population density of up to 60 individuals per square kilometer, this species is relatively widespread in certain parts of Uganda. Kibale forest national park, Bwindi impenetrable national park, Semiliki national park, Budongo forest, Bugoma forest and Queen Elizabeth national park just to mention a few. They can be spotted at Kalinzu forest reserve, Mpanga, and other national parks that feature protected forests.