Most herbivorous of all monkeys! Native to the Ethiopian Highlands

Charles J. Sharp



Most herbivorous of all monkeys! Native to the Ethiopian Highlands

Population 50,000 – 60,000

Endemic to the Ethiopian Highlands, this species distinguishes itself not only through its geographical isolation but also through its fascinating ecological and social behaviors. Unlike many of their primate relatives, Geladas are predominantly terrestrial, spending a considerable amount of their time in the vast montane grasslands of Ethiopia, where they forage for their primary food source: grass. This herbivorous diet sets them apart from other members of the primate family, which tend to have more varied diets.

Residing at elevations ranging from 1.8 to 4.4 kilometers (1.1 to 2.7 miles) above sea level, Geladas have adapted remarkably to life in these high-altitude environments. Their days are spent on the open grasslands where they feed, socialize, and move in large groups, while the cliffs that edge these grasslands provide a safe haven for sleeping at night. This unique adaptation to a terrestrial and high-altitude life showcases their evolutionary ingenuity.

Physically, Geladas are impressive, robust primates, their bodies covered in buff to dark brown, coarse hair, except for their distinctively hairless faces. One of the most striking physical features of Geladas is the bright patch of skin on their chest, which is especially vivid in males, displaying a bright red color. This patch is not merely decorative but serves important social functions, playing a role in communication and mating.

The social structure of Gelada populations is complex and fascinating. They live in large communities that can number in the hundreds, comprised of smaller units or “bands” that include family groups and all-male groups. Within these bands, relationships are intricate, with a clear hierarchy that governs interactions. The Geladas’ social life is characterized by vocalizations, gestures, and facial expressions, which are vital for maintaining the cohesion and stability of their societies.


Population est.
50,000 – 60,000

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No