Golden Monkeys, Rwanda - Michael Dykstra

Golden Monkeys

Golden Monkey Eating

These little guys are less well-known than the mountain gorillas that also occupy the same volcanoes region in Rwanda, Uganda, and Democratic Republic of the Congo, but they are absolutely worth seeing. They’re much less expensive than the gorillas ($100 vs $1500) and the walk is less intense. The gorillas can be high or low in the mountains, but these monkeys almost always hang out in the forest at the bottom. The golden monkeys are also, frankly, less intimidating than the sheer might of the gorillas. They were once thought to have descended from the blue monkey- you may remember I saw one of those on my trip up Mount Kilimanjaro. Still, the colors of the golden monkey are particularly striking, with the light hair on their face and golden hues on their flanks and back.

Our hike started near Sabinyo, one of the volcanoes which is near impossible to summit because of the steep and hazardous peak. We walked through some agricultural areas first- since Rwanda is a tiny country with 12 million people, they have done very well at trying to utilize every available square meter to help feed the population. They are not hard to find once you officially enter the park and go into the trees. They seem very curious and excitable. They’re jumping tree to tree and often trying to get a look at us. Our guides then put is in optimal positions and told us to wait, since often they’d come to us. They were right- I got a lot of pictures of them far away across a clearing, but many were curious about us came within a few meters of where I was standing. The perfect picture felt elusive since trying to capture them through branches required manual focus, but they turned out well in the end!

I love the expressiveness of these monkeys. Some of them were looking innocent and happy, just eating their fill of leaves for the day. Others appear mischievous, as though they believe I am hiding a banana from them which they’re bound and determined to get from me. Others seem surprised or concerned with my presence, gazing into my lens with those big, alert eyes.

Monkey Expressions

On a heavier note, habitat destruction and human influence has caused them to end up on the endangered species list. It’s hard to keep as precise of track of the very mobile creatures, but it’s estimated that only around are 1000 left in this region. As this is their only natural habitat, their plight is similar to that of the gorillas. Rwanda is currently a leader in the region in terms of conservation and is doing well at demonstrating that it is economically sustainable and desirable to preserve these habitats. Regardless the history of political instability and desperation in the region has certainly caused concern about the long term survival of this species. I hope that people can continue experiencing golden monkeys and other beautiful wild animals for generations to come, but we need to act now in order to make sure that happens.

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