, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 215-231

Implications of small scale variation in ecological conditions for the diet and density of red colobus monkeys

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In this 3-year investigation we documented patterns of density, diet, and activity of red colobus monkeys (Procolobus tephrosceles) in six areas in or near Kibale National Park, Uganda and related these patterns to availability of food resources. There were large differences in the density and behavior of the red colobus among the sites. For example, the red colobus at one site with a diverse plant community of more than 61 tree species, had a diet that included at least 42 species. In contrast, at a second site red colobus spent 92% of their feeding time eating from one species that dominated the tree community. The density of important red colobus food trees varied among sites from 32 trees/ha to 204 trees/ha, and red colobus density ranged from 0.70 groups/km2 to 7.41 groups/km2. Among sites, red colobus density was related to the cumulative DBH of important food trees, when one apparently anomalous site was excluded, and populations with more plant species in their diets tended to be those that were found at higher densities. Activity budgets of the red colobus populations varied markedly among sites. For example, feeding time ranged among sites from 29 to 55%, and traveling varied from 5 to 20%. When faced with increased foraging demands, red colobus reduced the time spent resting, while the time spent socializing remained fairly constant. Comparative socioecological studies typically contrast species separated by large geographical distances to ensure there is sufficient variation in the environment to detect behavioral responses. The marked differences in ecological conditions and red colobus behavior we documented over short geographical distances, suggests that small-scale contrasts are a useful tool to examine ecological determinants of behavior and community structure.