Photo: Gelada monkeys

The last of the grass-grazing primates, Ethiopia's gelada monkeys live in matriarchal societies.

Photograph by Michael Nichols

Map

Map: Gelada range

Gelada Range

Fast Facts

Type:
Mammal
Diet:
Omnivore
Average life span in the wild:
19 years
Size:
19.7 to 29.1 in (50 to 74 cm)
Weight:
28.6 to 46.2 lbs (13 to 21 kg)
Group name:
Tribe or troop
Protection status:
Threatened
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Gelada compared with adult man

Gelada monkeys live only in the high mountain meadows of Ethiopia—an environment very unlike those of their forest- or savanna-dwelling primate relatives. This high-altitude homeland is replete with steep, rocky cliffs, to which geladas have adapted. At night, the animals drop over precipice edges to sleep huddled together on ledges.

These baboon-size animals are the world's most terrestrial primates—except for humans. As grass-eaters, they are the last surviving species of ancient grazing primates that were once numerous. Geladas spend most of their day sitting down, plucking and munching on grasses. They have fatty rear ends, much like human buttocks, which seem well adapted to this activity.

Theropithecus gelada live in small family units of one male and three to six females. Though males are larger and more colorful, females dominate gelada societies. When an aging male begins to decline, the females in his family decide when he will be replaced by a younger rival—though the male will do all he can do to drive off such competition.

Gelada family units often combine to form large foraging bands of 30 to 350 animals. When food is abundant as many as 670 geladas have been seen together.

About 100,000 to 200,000 gelada monkeys survive, but even their remote mountain locales are feeling the effects of encroaching agriculture that threatens the grasslands. Indigenous peoples also hunt gelada and use their impressive manes in traditional coming-of-age ceremonies.

Mammal Features

  • Photo: Close-up of an African lion

    Animal Conservation

    Find out what National Geographic Society is doing to save animals all over the world, and learn what you can do to help.

  • hawaiian-monk-critter-cam.jpg

    Crittercam Helps Study Rare Species

    The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the oldest species of seal on the planet. But their tenure in paradise is perilously close to its end; only about 1,100 seals remain in the wild.

  • Masai Mara Lion

    Lions Quiz

    The king of cats rules with a roar and a fierce bite. What else do you know about this top predator?

  • Photo: Lion bares his teeth

    Cause an Uproar

    Big cats are quickly disappearing. Now is the time to act. Cause an uproar to save big cats today.

Photos

  •  Picture of a Malayan tiger

    Pictures: Tiger Subspecies

    Scientists estimate only about 3,000 wild tigers are left in the entire world. Meet the subspecies and see what threats each is facing.

See more animal photos »

From the Magazine

  • Photo of the lions of the Vumbi pride.

    The Surprising Lives of Lions

    In case you missed it: See these breathtaking videos and photos from inside a wild Serengeti pride.

  • Photo: Two adult preen, Ireland

    Gannets Pictures

    Champion divers but clumsy landers, doting parents but hostile neighbors—northern gannets abound in contradictions.