The patas monkey is widespread albeit uncommon species of monkey with an elongated and thin frame as an adaptation to life on the ground rather than in trees. With its long and thin limbs, patas are the quickest monkeys in the world. This proves to be decisive since it lives in open habitats where trees to find refuge in may be scarce. As a consequence, patas need to outrun their predators. Patas are widely distributed in Africa from Senegal in the west to north-eastern Tanzania and all the sahelian countries in between in addition to the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Eastern Ethiopia and Kenya.

Patas monkey (Western corridor of the Serengeti, Tanzania)


Length (body) : M=605-875mm; F=485-770mm

Tail: 540-740 mm

Weight: M=7-13 kg ; F=4-7 kg


Habitat: Patas are present in most open habitats such as savannahs, grasslands, woodland savannas, acacia savannahs and even semi-deserts. It may also be found in ecotones between savannahs and woodlands.

Food: Patas are omnivorous. They feed on fruits, various grass species, flowers, stems, seeds, foliage but also arthropods and especially ants despite their aggressivity. They may occasionally feed on lizards, nestlings and eggs.

Behavior and social structure: Patas are gregarious and live in troops numbering between 15 to 20 individuals. Composition varies depending on the size. They are invariably composed of females and young with one adult male in small troops or two and more in bigger troops. Males disperse before reaching puberty and wander alone or in small groups until they are strong enough to displace a dominant male and takeover his troop. Groups of young males may join females during the breeding season despite the presence of the dominant male.

The dominant male of a troop is quite intolerant of male strangers. He will usually shake branches and display his canines if they come close and eventually chase them. Dominant males remain secluded from their troop and only join for grooming or mating. He has priority access to food. There is also a hierarchy among females.

Patas are not territorial but dwell within home ranges of a few dozen km2. Yet, they are intolerant to other troops. Encounters between two troops are usually quite antagonistic and end up with the females and young of one troop chasing the members of the other troop over long distances of several kms.

Patas are diurnal and spend 60% of their time on the ground. They climb tree only to sleep. They leave their sleeping tree at dawn to forage until midday. They rest during the hottest hours of the day and resume their activities which also include grooming and other social interactions which take up to 14% of their time (Isbell et al.). At around 7 pm they climb back on their sleeping tree to spend the night.

Reproductive behavior: Patas reproduce during the rainy season but mating can also occur outside of it. Females initiate mating through specific behavior and posture which involve curbing the tail while passing close to a male and then stopping suddenly in a crouch in front of him. Gestation is 167 days. The baby hangs on its mother at birth. He ellicits interests from other females who may try to  steal him. It is weaned after three months.

Predators: As often with primates, the leopard is the main predator followed by jackals and rock pythons. Lions, hyenas, cheetahs, African wild dogs, olive baboons, chimpanzees, caracals, great raptors and crocodiles are occasional predators. Patas don't climb trees to escape predators but outrun them. They even climb down trees when they spot a predator and run away. If the predator is not too big like a jackal, small felid or snake they may mob and chase it.

Best places to see it: Very random. Patas can be seen with a lot of luck in the Western Corridor in the Serengeti in Tanzania. By no means a guaranteed sighting.