In the Volcano National Park there are now fully habituated Golden Monkeys and they are accessible to tourists. The golden monkeys are an endemic species of the Virunga massif. They are found in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Mgahinga national park in Uganda, Gishwati forest in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in Congo.
Golden monkeys live in families. The number of members per group varies between 30 to more than 75 individuals on Rwanda side. This includes one dominant male, females, juveniles and babies. The dominant males and adult females are responsible to protect the territory and resources found in, mostly females defend the food.
A dominant male leads the group from one to ten years, coordinates all the activities in the group, decides where to go, where to stand and what to do. Two groups are regularly identified in Volcanoes national park such as:
- Musonga group that occupies 74 ha is located on Karisimbi’s slopes with more than 100 individuals.
- Kabatwa group has a territory of 60 ha is located in Sabyinyo slopes with more than 70 individuals. This is the mostly visited and much habituated. The golden monkeys visit open up in volcanoes national park since July 2003.
Tracking the Golden Monkey: An Elusive Treasure in the Virunga Mountains
This little known monkey is one of the most endangered primates in Africa and it is now thought that the only viable population of these monkeys is in the Virunga Volcanoes. A smaller population may exist in the Nyungwe Forest in Southern Rwanda but this has yet to be verified. The golden monkey is a distinct species of guenon - Cercopithecus Kandti and is endemic to the Albertine Rift.
Two groups are being habituated for visitors in the Virungas. The Kabatwa group is found in the east of the park, on the flanks of the Sabyinyo volcano and has more than 60 in the group and can be viewed already. The Musonga Group lives higher up on the flanks of the Karisimbi volcano at an altitude of about 2800-3000 metres and has more than 100 individuals. This will be open to visitors shortly.
Habituation has been a slow process as acceptance to humans has not been easy but was finally achieved in 2003. The monkeys now chatter and play quite happily while being observed. They spend a large proportion of their time climbing the vegetation, some 2-3 metres above ground, feeding on bamboo leaves and shoots.
The juveniles are quite small and fluffy and their infectious good humour makes them charming to watch. They live near the lower reaches of the park and it is usually only a short walk to reach them.
Seeing the Golden Monkey makes a fantastic short excursion into the misty Virunga forest and it is a great addition to the activities clients can do in the magical afro-montane forest. As with the gorillas, only one hour is allowed with the Golden Monkeys. There is one visit a day, which starts at 7.30am from the park office at Kinigi.
For foreigner visitors: USD 100
For Rwandans visitors: RWF 4000
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