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Africa Geographic
Wildlife . People . Travel

Written by: Hagai Zvulun

Tanzania enjoys the highest primate diversity in mainland Africa. In fact Tanzania is the home to 27 primate species; 28, if you include us Homo sapiens.


Blue monkey
Blue monkey

In northern Tanzania species such as olive and yellow baboons occur in the the savanna along with vervet monkeys. Blue monkeys, Guereza monkeys and Angolan black and white colobus monkeys are commonly seen in the tropical forests in the northern region.

Olive baboon
Olive baboon
Vervet monkey
Vervet monkey

In western Tanzania one can find the red-tailed monkey, central African red colobus and the grey-cheeked mangabey – these species occur in the central African forest biome.

One third of Tanzania’s primates are endemic. The Zanzibar red colobus occurs in the Zanzibar Archipelago, and the Udzungwa red colobus exists in the Udzungwa Mountains. Both have very limited distributions and are critically endangered.

Zanzibar red colobus
Zanzibar red colobus
 Udzungwa red colobus © Marc Veraart
Udzungwa red colobus ©Marc Veraart

The Udzungwa forests, and their satellite forests in the southern Tanzanian highland, are bio-diversity hotspots when it comes to chameleons, but they are also important areas for primates such as galagos. This area harbours a staggering 11 primate species, out of which three monkey species are endemic – the Udzungwa red colobus, the Sanje mangabey and the Kipunji.

Sadly, the Sanje mangabey now only occurs in two forests in the Udzungwa block and is critically endangered. Extensive surveys have failed to find other populations of the beautiful Sanje mangabey. Both the Udzungwa red colobus and the Sanje mangabey can be viewed relatively easily on our expeditions to Udzungwa Mountains National Park; along with other unique wildlife, such as chameleons, birds and frogs.

© Marc Veraart
Sanje mangabey ©Marc Veraart

The last monkey species that was discovered in Tanzania is the truly amazing Kipunji – a large arboreal monkey that was discovered in 2003 by WCS teams working in the southern highlands. The Kipunji has a very limited distribution in the Udzungwa and Rungwe Mountains. It was originally believed to be closely related to the mangabey monkeys, but upon further research is more closely related to the baboon.

© Tim Davenport / WCS
Kipunji ©Tim Davenport / WCS

With only about 1,000 individuals in the wild in a tiny unprotected range of 52km², it is one of the most endangered monkeys in Tanzania. It also enjoys the very distinguished status of being the only monkey species in Tanzania that has never been seen on a Matembezi Expedition; a status that we are very keen to change.

So… who wants to see the Kipunji?!

Kafunta Safaris

Matembezi is a Tanzanian safari company with the aim of taking guests to beautiful locations to experience great wildlife moments and human encounters unmarred by mass tourism. From wilderness areas inhabited by hunter gatherers, to remote bird rich forests and the lush reefs of the coral sea, their intimate knowledge of Tanzania is the basis of their ability to offer safaris off the beaten track. They operate excellent mobile camps and pride themselves on superb guiding, as well as attentive and friendly service.