Cercocebus torquatus

Geographic Distribution and Habitat

The red-capped mangabey, also known as the collared mangabey, red-crowned mangabey, or white-collared mangabey, is native to the Atlantic coast of West and Central Africa. Specifically, the red-capped mangabey is found in coastal, swamp, mangrove, and valley forests from western Nigeria, east and south into neighboring Cameroon, throughout the countries of Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, and finally, on the Congo-Gabon border by the shores of the Atlantic.

The red-capped mangabey is primarily arboreal, but will drop to the ground for a quick escape if pursued by a predator, or to forage in groups for particular foodstuffs. In the lower levels of the forest habitat, the red-capped mangabey forages for food, sleeps, and evades natural predators (eagles and leopards). The species is also content with scaling up to 100 ft (30 m) in the trees.


The sooty mangabey (Cecrocebus atys) and white-naped mangabey (C. lunulatus) were once considered subspecies of the red-capped magabey. Both species have since been designated as separate species.

Red-capped mangabey geographic range, IUCN 2018

Size, Weight, and Lifespan

The red-capped mangabey is the largest species of mangabey, and exhibits sexual dimorphism, with males being 25% larger and heavier than females. The red-capped mangabey has head-body length of 19–26 inches (47–67 cm) in males and 18–24 inches (46–60 cm) in females. Males weigh between 20–22 pounds (9–10 kg), while females weigh between 17–19 pounds (7.5–8.6 kg). Their tail is longer than their body, ranging from 20–31 inches (51–79 cm) long, which allows for balance when navigating around their forest habitat.

Their lifespan in the wild ranges from the late teens to late 20s.


The various common names attributed to the red-capped mangabey relate to the chestnut-red crown on their heads and the white collar looping around their faces. Otherwise, gray fur covers the body, a black face and ears, and striking white eyelids. The tail is dark gray with a white tip, which is often held over the head. The species’ teeth consist of long molars and very large incisors for their omnivorous diet. 

Red-capped mangabeys have cheek pouches that extend into their throats and can expand to the size of their stomachs to store food for later when safe from predators. They have partially webbed fingers and toes, which make them excellent swimmers. Their thumbs and big toes are opposable, allowing them to grasp items with their hands or feet. They also have a throat sac, which is used to amplify the variety of vocalizations they make to maintain group cohesion and territorial boundaries between neighboring groups.


The red-capped mangabey is an omnivore, with a diet consisting of primarily fruits, nuts, and seeds. They supplement their diet with young leaves, flowers, nectar, roots, stems, mushrooms, gum, bird eggs, and invertebrates (namely insects and spiders).

Their powerful teeth and jaws help them bite into thick-skinned fruits or crack hard nut shells. Guenon monkeys, some of whom share the red-capped mangabeys’ habitat, don’t have this nifty set of “chompers,” so hooray! More food for the mangabeys!

Behavior and Lifestyle

Red-capped mangabeys are diurnal (most active during the day), and travel together foraging through their treed habitat. They are excellent jumpers and effortlessly move through their habitat, using their long tails for balance. They primarily forage in the trees, but can be found more often on the ground during the dry season in search of alternative food sources. At night, individuals break off into smaller groups to sleep in the trees.

For the red-capped mangabey, breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day! They begin foraging early in the morning, often before sunrise, and stuff their cheek pouches to capacity for later consumption. They use their hands and strong teeth to rip tree bark in order to locate insects and spiders hidden beneath this initial tree layer.

The red-capped mangabey sometimes ventures into nearby fruit plantations, which causes human-animal conflict and jeopardizes the safety of the species.

Fun Facts

The red-capped mangabey is sometimes called the “four-eyed monkey,” due to their white eyelids appearing similar to another pair of eyes.

Daily Life and Group Dynamics

The red-capped mangabey lives in social groups known as “troops” consisting of 10–35 individuals of both sexes. Troops are led by an alpha male, and relations between members are peaceful, with lower-ranking individuals showing their rear end to higher-ranking individuals to maintain the peace. Social grooming is also performed to strengthen bonds between troop members.

If red-capped mangabey troops encounter one another, these interactions are often friendly, and some members (mainly males) may swap places and join the other troop. These cordial relations between troops are often thanks to the abundance of food, and thus, lack of competition for resources.

Upon reaching adulthood at five to seven years of age, males will leave their birth group to find another troop with which they can achieve alpha male status. Unlike some primate species, male red-capped mangabeys do not form bachelor groups; rather, they will live alone until finding or creating a troop where alpha status can be attained.

Females, in contrast, remain with their birth group, and form strict hierarchies with one another in order to avoid conflicts.


Communication is key for the red-capped mangabey, and is done in a variety of ways.

In terms of vocalizations, an extensive repertoire of barks, cackles, grunts, shrieks, and twitters are used to maintain contact with troop members within their thick forested habitat, and to maintain territorial boundaries between groups. This repertoire is only enhanced further with the red-capped mangabey’s large throat sac, which amplifies vocalizations, and makes them quite the noisy monkeys. With this particularly large throat sac, the male is able to shriek to alert troop members of potential dangers, such as predators. To keep away intruders, he may bark, grunt or twitter (and may be joined in this case by adult females), as well as shake tree branches and present a threatening facial grimace for intimidation purposes. One other male vocalization has been coined as the “whoop-gobble” by scientists; in this unique vocalization, the whoop component catches the attention of other mangabeys in the area, while the gobble announces the male’s position within the trees. This call can be heard up to 1,000 yd (1 km) away.

An expressive, animated face also conveys information! The white fur around the red-capped mangabey’s eyes can enhance social interactions, such as eye-blinking, as a form of communication. Another body-based social cue includes deliberate movements of their long, white-tipped tails. What’s more, the red-capped mangabey can adapt its gestural communication based on the recipient’s behavior. In other words, if a red-capped mangabey visually or gesturally communicates with a recipient who isn’t facing them, the communicator will move to a spot where the recipient can see them and communicate again, rather than use another method of catching the recipient’s attention (namely auditory). Persistence pays off!

Reproduction and Family

The red-capped mangabey has no defined breeding season. Both sexes reach sexual maturity at five to seven years of age, upon which males will leave their natal group in search of another group to either join or create, become alpha male, and father the next generation(s). When a female is ready to breed, her anogenital region will swell, acting as an indicator to males that she is receptive. The exact mating system of the red-capped mangabey has not been thoroughly explored by scientists. They may either be polygynous (each male has multiple mates) or polygynangrous (i.e., promiscuous, in which both sexes have numerous mates).

After a gestation period of around 170 days, females will give birth to a single infant. Infants are born covered in soft fur, eyes open, and cling to mom’s belly for the first few months of life. After these initial months, the young will ride on mom’s back as she goes about her day foraging. Weaning occurs at 7 to 10 months of age; however, the young will stick by mom’s side until she has another baby in around one year and three months time.

Ecological Role

While foraging, the red-capped mangabey disperses a variety of seeds through its dung, and pollinates flowers from its affinity for licking nectar. Thus, the species helps to regenerate a menagerie of plant species throughout their forest habitat.

Conservation Status and Threats

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the red-capped mangabey as Endangered (IUCN, 2019), appearing on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The red-capped mangabey’s primary threats are habitat loss and illegal hunting for the bushmeat trade. The species is seen as a pest by local farmers (who have converted the red-capped mangabey’s forest habitat into agricultural land), and the monkeys are easily shot or snared by hunters to sell meat for consumption both locally and in distant urban areas. The red-capped mangabey’s relatively large size, semi-terrestrial habits, large group size, and loud vocalizations all make the species easily detectable for hunters to target.

The growth of human population along the red-capped mangabey’s range continues at around 2.7%, and is not projected to slow down for several decades. This means more land will be needed to sustain the growing human population, increasing agricultural use in the red-capped mangabey’s range, and subsequent deforestation of the original habitat. Habitat loss will also be increased due to the continued construction of roads in the red-capped mangabey’s range, which facilitates further hunting and transporting of bushmeat.

Oil and gas drilling is yet another threat to the red-capped mangabey’s survival.

Conservation Efforts

The red-capped mangabey is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), an international agreement between governments whose goal is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

The red-capped mangabey is also listed on Class B of the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. However, as is often the case with endangered species, laws created to protect them are difficult to enforce, and often ignored.

There are various (protected) national parks throughout the red-capped mangabey’s range, including Long and Mayumba National Parks in Gabon, Korup National Park in Cameroon, and Conkouati-Douli National Park in Congo. However, illegal poaching still occurs within these safe spaces, and populations living outside of national parks are becoming increasingly rare. Even so, the populations within these protected areas fare comparatively better than those outside them.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums has a Species Survival Plan for the red-capped mangabey, which helps to maintain genetic diversity in captive populations.

Ultimately, further law enforcement and legislation must be enacted, as well as additional management activities regarding timber harvesting, trade, and land and water protection, in order to protect the red-capped magabey and save it from the threat of extinction.


Written by Sienna Weinstein, January 2024