Virunga Golden Monkeys
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 Sabinyo volcano and has about 40 in the group and can be viewed already. The Musongo Group lives higher up on the flanks of the Karisimbi volcano at an altitude of about 2800-3000 metres and has about 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 and six visitors are allowed per visit. There is one visit a day, which starts at 7.30am from the park office at Kinigi.