Grey-cheeked crested mangabey (Lophocebus albigena)

Portrait of grey-cheeked crested mangabey eating Ficus sansibarica fruit
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Grey-cheeked crested mangabey fact file

Grey-cheeked crested mangabey description

GenusLophocebus (1)

The grey-cheeked crested mangabey is a large, tree-dwelling monkey, with long limbs, a long, ruffled tail which is longer than its body, and a distinctive mantle of longer, lighter-coloured hair over the neck and shoulders (2) (4) (5). The body is black, with a browner underside (5) (6) (7), while the shoulder mantle varies in colour both between individuals and between locations, ranging from grey to fawn or brown (2) (7). As the common name suggests, the cheeks are usually grey, and the face is black and only very thinly haired. The top of the head bears a tufted crest of longer fur (2) (5) (7). Females are slightly smaller and more slender than males (2) (4), though less noticeably so than in other mangabey species (7) (8). Since facial and visual displays are of limited use in the dense forest canopy, the grey-cheeked crested mangabey relies less on these than other mangabey species, and also lacks the pale upper eyelids which other mangabeys use to enhance facial signals. Instead, the grey-cheeked crested mangabey is highly vocal, communicating with a range of grunts, barks, chuckles, screams, and a distinctive “whoop-gobble” call given by the adult male. This loud call is amplified by specialised air sacs in the male’s throat and clearly advertises the presence and location of his troop (2) (7).

To date, three subspecies of grey-cheeked crested mangabey have been recognised (1) (7), which vary greatly in body and mantle colour, and in the crest of fur on the head (2) (7) (9). However, the taxonomy of the species is currently being revised, and it is likely that the subspecies will be elevated to full species status in the near future, with those in Uganda constituting a fourth species, Lophocebus ugandae (9) (10).

Also known as
gray-cheeked mangabey, grey-cheeked mangabey, white-cheeked mangabey.
Mangabey De Mejillas Grises.
Male head-body length: 54 - 73 cm (2)
Female head-body length: 43 - 61 cm (2)
Tail length: 73 - 100 cm (2)
Male weight: 6 - 11 kg (2)
Female weight: 4 - 7 kg (2)

Grey-cheeked crested mangabey biology

The grey-cheeked crested mangabey usually feeds high in the forest canopy, on a diet of fruit, seeds and nuts, as well as buds, shoots, leaves and flowers (2) (7) (11). Invertebrates, such as ants, ant larvae and caterpillars, are also taken, with individuals often breaking open hollow branches or rotten wood in search of this prey, and adult males have also occasionally been recorded preying on small mammals (11) (12). Large incisors allow the grey-cheeked crested mangabey to crack open hard nuts, and cheek pouches enable food to be collected to be eaten later (4) (7).

Grey-cheeked crested mangabey troops typically average around 15 individuals (5) (8), led by a dominant male (2). Breeding appears to occur year-round (2) (6), with a single young born after a gestation period of nearly six months (2) (4) (5). Female grey-cheeked crested mangabeys show a conspicuous pink sexual swelling when they are ready to mate (2) (7). The lifespan of the grey-cheeked crested mangabey varies according to diet; groups that consistently feed on hard nuts wear their teeth down faster and die sooner than those with softer diets (2). In captivity the grey-cheeked crested mangabey may live for over 32 years (6).


Grey-cheeked crested mangabey range

The grey-cheeked crested mangabey is found in central Africa, from Nigeria south to Angola, and east to Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi (1) (2) (7). Lophocebus albigena albigena occurs in southern Cameroon, east to the Central African Republic, and south to northeastern Angola. Lophocebus albigena osmani is found further north, in Cameroon and southeastern Nigeria, and Lophocebus albigena johnstoni is found in Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. The proposed species Lophocebus ugandae is confined to western Uganda (2) (7) (10).


Grey-cheeked crested mangabey habitat

Both primary and secondary rainforest, as well as riverine and swamp forest (1) (2) (5). Although mainly a lowland species, the grey-cheeked crested mangabey can also be found in montane forest, at elevations of up to 1,600 metres (1) (2).


Grey-cheeked crested mangabey status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Grey-cheeked crested mangabey threats

The grey-cheeked crested mangabey is threatened by habitat loss due to logging and clearing of forests for agriculture (1) (13). Although this species can use secondary forest, it is thought to be mainly dependent on intact primary forest, and may be less adaptable to habitat changes than other forest monkeys (13). Grey-cheeked crested mangabeys are also hunted for bushmeat, particularly in Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon (1) (13), and in Uganda are killed for raiding crops, although this behaviour is only thought to happen in areas where forests have recently been felled (13).


Grey-cheeked crested mangabey conservation

The grey-cheeked crested mangabey is listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that international trade in this species should be carefully monitored and controlled (3), and is also listed under Class B of the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, which only permits the grey-cheeked crested mangabey to be killed or captured with special authorisation (14). The species also occurs in some protected areas, including Dja Faunal Reserve in Cameroon, a World Heritage Site (13) (15). However, hunting pressure and habitat loss may be resulting in local declines, and the likely upgrading of the subspecies to full species level means that the status and conservation of each form of grey-cheeked crested mangabey needs urgent reassessment (1) (10).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For more information on mangabeys and their conservation see:

For more information on primate conservation in Cameroon see:

Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund:

For more information on the bushmeat trade, its problems and solutions, see:

Bushmeat Crisis Task Force:



Authenticated (26/03/09) by Matthew Richardson, primatologist and author.



The meat derived from wildlife of African forests, or ‘bush’.
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
Animals with no backbone.
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Montane forest
Forest occurring in the montane zone, a zone of cool upland slopes below the tree line dominated by large evergreen trees.
Primary forest
Forest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.
Secondary forest
Forest that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or timber harvest, but has not yet reached the mature state of primary forest.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
The science of classifying organisms, grouping together animals which share common features and are thought to have a common ancestor.


  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2009)
  2. Kingdon, J. (1997) The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press, London.
  3. CITES (January, 2009)
  4. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Alden, P.C., Estes, R.D., Schlitter, D. and McBride, B. (1996) Collins Guide to African Wildlife. HarperCollins Publishers, London.
  6. Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  7. Mangabey Species Survival Plan (January, 2009)
  8. Fleagle, J.G. (1999) Primate Adaptation and Evolution. Second Edition. Academic Press, New York.
  9. Groves, C.P. (2007) The endemic Uganda mangabey, Lophocebus ugandae, and other members of the albigena-group (Lophocebus). Primate Conservation, 22: 1 - 6.
  10. Richardson, M. (2009) Pers. comm.
  11. Poulsen, J.R., Clark, C.J. and Smith, T.B. (2001) Seasonal variation in the feeding ecology of the grey-cheeked mangabey (Lophocebus albigena) in Cameroon. American Journal of Primatology, 54: 91 - 105.
  12. Poulsen, J.R. and Clark, C.J. (2001) Predation on mammals by the grey-cheeked mangabey Lophocebus albigena. Primates, 42(4): 391 - 394.
  13. Wolfheim, J.H. (1983) Primates of the World: Distribution, Abundance and Conservation. University of Washington Press, London.
  14. African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (January, 2009)
  15. UNEP-WCMC: Dja Faunal Reserve, Cameroon (January, 2009)

Image credit

Portrait of grey-cheeked crested mangabey eating Ficus sansibarica fruit  
Portrait of grey-cheeked crested mangabey eating Ficus sansibarica fruit

© Dr. Alain Houle

Dr. Alain Houle
Department of Anthropology
Harvard University
United States of America


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