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The Zoo’s troop of patas monkeys can be seen at the Thelma and Henry Doelger Primate Discovery Center.
The patas monkey is large and tall, very slender and gauntly built. Adults have a moustache and whiskers, usually white, while the body fur is reddish gray with pale underparts. They have a pale or grey face with a dark band across the brow below a reddish cap. The eyes and nostrils are very close together. Typically males are about twice the size of females, are more vibrantly colored and have manes.
Their palms and soles are bare and have five short, strong digits with flat nails to assist in grasping and running. Unlike more specialized ground walking baboons, patas monkeys have hips that are higher than their shoulders when waling. They will often stand upright to scan their surroundings or when alarmed. Like kangaroos they are able to support themselves in a tripod stance using their tail.
Lifespan is about 20 years in the wild, and up to 23 in captivity.
They are found in open steppe, grasslands and acacia wooded savanna of central Africa. Patas can exist in semi-arid conditions and are often found miles from water.
Patas monkeys are omnivores, eating grubs and other ground insects, small reptiles, fruits, leaves, roots and birds’ eggs. At the Zoo, the patas monkeys are fed a diet of fruits, yams, carrots, greens, monkey chow and sunflower seeds.
Although the patas will climb trees when alarmed, it is one of the most terrestrial of all monkeys.
Patas monkeys live in harem groups of up to 30 individuals, including one adult male, several females and their young. Unattached males remain solitary or will form small bachelor groups. Adult males lead the group and act as look-out against predators. When threatened, the male will perform as a decoy allowing the group to escape. At night each individual female and her offspring will find their own tree to sleep in to help reduce a large loss from predators.
They are mostly quiet monkeys. Females and young have a restrained vocabulary of hoots and chirrups, as well as low whistles, and a repeated guttural cough. Males will make a burring alarm note or bark. To show annoyance, patas monkeys merely yawn.
Breeding is annual and typically seasonal, with most births occurring between December and January. The female conceives during the wet season following an elaborate courtship. Males display a bouncing behavior before mating – this can be seen even in juvenile males at five or six months. Normally a single, all-black young is born after a gestational period of 167 days. Females in the group share parenting responsibilities, which is thought to help strengthen group bonds. Young are able to climb about on their mother’s body at only two days old and will begin exploring on their own at about two weeks. Males are forced out of the group upon reaching sexual maturity at four or five years while females remain with the group for life.
Patas monkeys are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN. They are a widespread species, still relatively abundant, although there has been a marked decrease in the number of individuals in the southeastern parts of its range.
This species’ major threat is habitat loss as a result of clearance of savanna for crops and pastureland. Patas are also occasionally hunted for bushmeat in West Africa and collected for the pet trade and research.