(This blog first appeared on focusingonwildlife.com)
Geladas are the sole survivors of a once abundant branch of primates that historically foraged across the grasslands of Africa, the Mediterranean and India. These relics of time gone by now cling to a precarious existence on the sheer cliffs of Ethiopia’s mountains, from which each morning they materialize, to forage on nearby moorlands, before disappearing down the precipices in the evening.
• sporting the largest canines in proportion to body size of any mammal;
• yet they are the only graminivorous primate (meaning they feed primarily on grass, not to be confused with a seed-eating granivorous animal!);
• they have the closest vocal repertoire to humans of any mammal;
• they have the most complex social structure of any mammal after humans; and
• they are the most terrestrial primate after humans.
Yawning male and a female showing off Gelada’s typical buttock pads
With many primate species, females indicate their sexual status with colored and swollen genitalia and buttocks, however, since Geladas spend almost the entire day sitting, they have instead developed an hourglass-shaped patch of bare skin on their chests which becomes bright red and is surrounded by swollen, liquid-filled blisters when in estrus. Males sport a larger heart-shaped bare batch encircled by pale fur, that shows off their dominance status.
Although Geladas can be seen within a few hours’ drive from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, the best place for spending time with these fascinating monkeys is Simien National Park north of Gonder where these images were taken. For more details on birding, wildlife and photographic tours which will take you to prime areas for quality time in and amongst Gelada bands (an experience of a lifetime that can’t be more highly recommended), as well as for observing a myriad of other unique Ethiopian wildlife, please visit the websites of Rockjumper Birding Tours www.rockjumperbirding.com, Indri – Ultimate Mammal Voyages www.indritours.com or Oryx – Worldwide Photographic Safaris www.oryxphotography.com or contact Adam Riley on email@example.com