Differences between ecological niches in northern and southern populations of Angolan black and white colobus monkeys (Colobus angolensis palliatus and Colobus angolensis sharpei) throughout Kenya and Tanzania

Am J Primatol. 2019 Jul;81(6):e22975. doi: 10.1002/ajp.22975. Epub 2019 Apr 24.


Ecological niche models can be useful for clarifying relationships between environmental factors and a species' geographic distribution. In this study, we use presence-only data and environmental layers to create an ecological niche model to better understand the distribution of the East African Angolan black and white colobus monkey, Colobus angolensis palliatus, and to assess whether the model supports considering the population as two separate subspecies, Colobus angolensis sharpei and C. a. palliatus. We found the range of the predicted distribution for suitable habitat of C. a. palliatus as currently classified to be only 12.4% of that shown in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List range map and to be fragmented. As C. angolensis is considered a "Least Concern" species, this difference suggests that generalized maps may lead to understating the species' extinction risk. When presence points were divided into two previously proposed subspecies -C. a. palliatus (Kenya and Northern Tanzania) and C. a. sharpei (Southern Tanzania)-we found significant environmental differences between the distributions. The most important ecological variable for C. a. palliatus was predominantly precipitation of the driest month (69.1%) whereas for C. a. sharpei annual precipitation (44.8%) and land cover (normalized difference vegetation index, 16.4%) were the most important. When comparing suitable ranges for the separate distributions, we found only a 1.2% geographical overlap. These differences are consistent with previous subspecies delineations of C. a. palliatus and C. a. sharpei based upon morphology, pelage, and genetics. Our study suggests that extirpation of C. a. palliatus in suitable habitat areas and occurrence of this subspecies in anthropogenic environments, warrant further consideration for conservation actions.

Keywords: Eastern Arc Mountains; IUCN Red List; Maxent; habitat fragmentation; species distribution modeling.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colobus / classification*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Ecosystem*
  • Kenya
  • Rain
  • Tanzania