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June Primate of the Month — Agile Mangabey

by Jun 12, 2020Apes Like Us, Great Ape Education, Primate of the Month

June Primate of the Month – the Agile Mangabey

Agile Mangabeys (Cercocebus agilis) are a medium-sized species of Old World Primate, found throughout several Central African countries, including Cameroon, Central Africa Republic and both the Republic of Congo and the DRCongo. Generally sticking to troops of 7-22 animals, these monkeys spend a considerable time of their days on the ground – for foraging and traveling purposes. 

These Mangabeys are ruled by hierarchy, with one alpha male at the helm. With such small groups, there is generally only one adult male per troop, although there have been instances of more. Young adult males will often split from their natal group to join other groups – thus encouraging genetic diversity in the species. Agile Mangabeys have rarely been kept in captivity (outside of rescue centers), and although it is difficult to determine, they are estimated to live up to 20 years in the wild. 

Social Norms

Agile Mangabeys use a variety of vocal calls and visual signals to communicate with their troops: to greet other troop members, to signal food or territory, or to act as a warning when predators are about. As they often stick to dense foliage, the alpha males will often announce their presence through loud booming calls when they come close to other troops. 

Unlike with other primates, where grooming is used to strengthen bonds between individuals and demonstrate hierarchy (among many other functions), Agile Mangabeys, especially mothers. For reasons unknown, Mother Agile Mangabeys will not groom their infant offspring, only juvenile offspring.

 

Map of Central Africa depicting natural range of Agile Mangabeys

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Threats, Protection, and Human Interactions

Non-human predators include crowned eagles, leopards and pythons. However, the swampy and flooded forest areas that they often inhabit actually provide some protection for them as it’s tougher for leopards and pythons to hunt in these areas. Because of this, humans are likely to be the most dangerous of predators for them.

Hunting is the main human threat against these monkeys, both due to the bushmeat trade and because of their crop-raiding tendencies. Unfortunately, as they spend much time on the ground, they are also more susceptible to snares and traps. Even if these traps are set for other forest animals (for example antelopes), they indiscriminately trap whatever may come upon them. Deforestation has also led to a significant loss of habitat for Agile Mangabeys throughout their range – much of which is due to mining, logging and agriculture. As their home diminishes and forage becomes scarcer, these highly adaptable primates rely more on human crops. Farmers, not taking lightly to this crop-raiding, may set traps of their own to prevent further crop loss.   

Agile Mangabeys are protected by law in Equatorial Guinea, with partial protection in other range countries such as Cameroon and the DRC; nevertheless, the bushmeat trade is the biggest threat for these primates. The bushmeat trade (both legal and illegal) poses a significant transmission risk for certain zoonotic diseases (i.e. that can pass from animal to human). These Mangabeys have been known to carry T-cell leukemia virus and are likely carriers of Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) which is similar to HIV in humans. 

Sources:

https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Cercocebus_agilis/

https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/136615/17955862#text-fields

https://www.britannica.com/animal/mangabey#ref795458

https://web.archive.org/web/20080828202831/http://www.mangabeyssp.org/Agile%20Mangabey.htm – Agile Monkey Species Survival Plan

Fleagle, J. G. (2013). Chapter 6 – Old World Monkeys. In Primate Adaptation and Evolution (Third Edition). doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-378632-6.00006-9

Peters, Martine, et al. Risk to Human Health from a Plethora of Simian Immunodeficiency Viruses in Primate Bushmeat. 2002, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2732488/#doi: 10.3201/eid0805.01-0522

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