Mitred leaf monkey (Presbytis melalophos)

Mitred leaf monkey with grey pelage
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Mitred leaf monkey fact file

Mitred leaf monkey description

GenusPresbytis (1)

The scientific name of this monkey Presbytis is derived from the Greek word for ‘old woman’ and refers to the mitred leaf monkey’s facial appearance; it has poorly developed or absent brow ridges (2), distinctively ringed eyes, prominent nasal bones and a tufted crest of dark hair on the crown of the head (3). Newborn mitred leaf monkeys are commonly white, with a dark stripe running down the back and tail and across the shoulders, forming a characteristic cruciform coat pattern (4). Adults, on the other hand, display a diverse variation in coat colouring, ranging from brownish-red through pale orange to blackish-grey and white, with paler fur on the belly, chest and limbs (2). The brow is usually coloured red, orange or white (2). The mitred leaf monkey has a slender body with a long tail and legs, adapted for balance, strength and agility when leaping through the rainforest understory.  The hands are elongated with strong, developed fingers, but a small, rudimentary thumb (3). Male mitred leaf monkeys give distinctive, low-pitched, territorial calls at dusk and dawn, and at intervals throughout the night (5).

Also known as
Sumatran surili.
Presbytis aurata, Presbytis batuanus, Presbytis ferrugineus, Presbytis flavimanus, Presbytis fluviatilis, Presbytis fusco-murina, Presbytis margae, Presbytis nobilis.
Semnopithèque Mélalophe.
Langur De Cresta.
Head-body length: 42 – 59 cm (2)
Tail length: 53 – 81 cm (2)
5.8 – 7.4 kg (2)

Mitred leaf monkey biology

The mitred leaf monkey is active throughout the day and early evening and (4), although it is a primarily arboreal species, little time is spent climbing and swinging through trees due to the species’ primitive thumb. Instead, the mitred leaf monkey moves largely by leaping and walking or running on all fours (5).

Despite its name, leaves comprise only one-third of the mitred leaf monkey’s diet; the remainder is made up of seeds, fruit, flowers and roots (2) (5); it has even been known to dig up and eat cultivated sweet potatoes (2). A total of 55 different plant species are eaten by the mitred leaf monkey (5), taken from within a daily foraging range of 500 to 800 metres (3). It obtains water through its diet, as well as by drinking dew and rainwater found in tree hollows (2)

Female mitred leaf monkeys reach sexual maturity at around four years of age, and males become sexually mature at between four and five years (2). While there is not a specific breeding season, there is a peak in the number of births coinciding with the greatest seasonal abundance of food (2) (7). The female mitred leaf monkey gives birth to a single offspring or, rarely, twins (2). Infants gain independence from the parent at an early age, with juvenile males dispersing from their natal group at between five and ten months of age (3).  

The mitred leaf monkey lives in groups of 12 to 18 individuals, consisting of either one male and multiple females, or multiple males and multiple females (5). All-male groups and lone males may attempt to take over troops by splitting off females (3).  


Mitred leaf monkey range

This species is endemic to the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, and the small island of Pulau Pini in the Batu Archipelago, just off the coast of Sumatra (1).


Mitred leaf monkey habitat

The mitred leaf monkey primarily resides in lowland rainforests near rivers, but occasionally it can also be found at higher altitudes. It prefers to live in the understory, but can sometimes be found in the highest elevations of the rainforest canopy (6)


Mitred leaf monkey status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (2).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Mitred leaf monkey threats

Indonesia's status as the world's number-one supplier of plywood and a major supplier of palm oil poses a significant threat to this species (8). Whilst this species is tolerant to the alteration of its habitat to some degree, the extensive loss of suitable habitat is causing population numbers to decline (1). The threat of habitat loss is compounded by the rise of poaching of this species for the pet trade and food (1) (9).


Mitred leaf monkey conservation

The mitred leaf monkey is protected by national law in Indonesia (1) and is listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (10). This species is found in five protected areas in Indonesia: Berbak National Park, Bukit Barisan National Park, Bukit Sebelah Protection Forest, Kerinci-Seblat National Park, and Way Kambas National Park (1), which may help protect certain populations from the threat of habitat loss.

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

Find out more

To learn more about efforts to conserve Indonesia’s wildlife see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


An animal which lives or spends a large amount of time in trees.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.


  1. IUCN Red List (November 2009)
  2. MacDonald, D.W. (2009) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  3. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  4. Fleagle, J.G. (1999) Primate Adaptation and Evolution. Academic Press, San Diego.
  5. Rowe, N. (1996) Pictorial Guide to the Living Primates. Pogonias Press, Charlestown, Rhode Island.
  6. Parker, S.P. (1990) Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. McGraw-Hill, New York.
  7. Bennett, E.L. and Davies, A.G. (1994) The Ecology of Asian Colobines. In: Davies, A.G. and Oates, J. F. (Eds.) Colobine Monkeys: Their Ecology, Behaviour and Evolution. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
  8. WWF (November 2009)
  9. Geissmann, T., Nijman, V. and Dallmann, R. (2006) The fate of diurnal primates in southern Sumatra. Gibbon Journal, 2: 18-24.
  10. CITES (November 2009)

Image credit

Mitred leaf monkey with grey pelage  
Mitred leaf monkey with grey pelage

© Hannah L Barlow

Hannah L Barlow


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