The Patas monkey is a ground-dwelling monkey distributed over West and East Africa. It is the only species classified in the genus Erythrocebus. Recent phylogenetic study indicates that it is the closest relative of the Vervet monkey. They are the world’s fastest terrestrial primates, the male Patas monkey is capable of running at least 35 miles per hour. In the wild, Patas monkeys spend more time on the ground than any other monkey.
The Patas monkey grows to 85 cm (33 in) in length, excluding the tail, which measures 75 cm (30 in). Adult males are considerably larger than adult females. Reaching speeds of 55 km/h (34 mph), it is the fastest runner among the primates.
They live in multi-female groups of up to 60 individuals. The group contains just one adult male for most of the year. During the breeding season, there are multi-male influxes into the group. Once juvenile males reach sexual maturity (around the age of four years old) they leave the group, usually joining all-male groups. The adult females in the group initiate movement of the group with the male following their lead.
The role of the male Patas monkey is not only breeding but also to protect the females from danger. Males linger on the outskirts of the troop and watch out for approaching danger, acting as a decoy to predators so the females and the young are able to run off and hide. However, despite spending time around them, there is little interaction between males and females outside of the breeding season.
A female Patas monkey is ready for reproduction at the age of 3 while the male at between 4 and 5 years. They have strict mating seasons which coincide with the winter months either from June to September or October to January depending on the geographic location. Their gestation period lasts for around five months. Patas monkeys become independent of their mother when they reach breeding age when males will leave the troop to either join an all-male juvenile group or will become solitary, until they are dominant enough to challenge older males for positions in troops with females. Young females however, remain in their natal group and will stay close to their mother for their whole lives.
Patas monkeys are omnivorous animals, they consume both plant matter and small animals. They primarily feed on Acacia fruits, galls and leaves along with other seasonal fruits, flowers and tree gum. They are also known to eat insects, lizards and birds’ eggs along with raiding crops where they are often known to cause damage to the crops themselves. Due to their predominantly terrestrial nature, more than 85% of their food is collected on ground-level. Depending on where the local population lives water can sometimes be limited which can cause conflict between rival troops as they gather at water-holes to drink. Those populations however, that are found in the flood-lands have less conflict between each other for water.