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The Gelada: Characteristics, Behavior and Habitat

There are hundreds of species of primates, but few are as elusive as the gelada (Theropithecus gelada). This species survives in the highest grasslands of Ethiopia and is known as the ‘bleeding heart monkey’ because of the unique color pattern on its chest.

The gelada is the last surviving member of the genus Theropithecus which the giant baboons belonged to. One of them, Theropithecus oswaldi, lived in many European countries and weighed as much as the huge primates like the present-day gorilla.

Characteristics of the gelada

The geladas are medium-sized primates with brown fur. They can weight up to 65 lb, although it’s more normal for them to weight between 26 and 45 lb. Both males and females have a red-color chest in the shape of a heart.

They have a non-prehensile tail which is only found in American primates like the capuchin monkey. They can live for up to 14 years, have a reproductive cycle of just over a month with a six-month gestation period.

There are actually two subspecies, T. gelada gelada and T. gelada obscurus, whose fur is darker. They also present great sexual dimorphism. Males have more hair, especially on the shoulders, head, and cheeks. Their pale eyelids and huge fangs mean that they can make some truly terrifying threatening gestures.

They also present great sexual dimorphism. Males have more hair, especially on the shoulders, head, and cheeks.


Unlike many primates, the gelada is exclusively a land animal. They live in societies where a male leader has a group of females and another male who is known as a follower. However, these central groups are usually supported by another 300 individuals.


Geladas only live in the high mountain grasslands, between 4,500 and 14,500 ft high, and the two subspecies, T. gelada gelada and T. gelada obscurus, are only found around Lake Tana and Lake Takezé in Ethiopia.

Neither subspecies is considered to be endangered because there are more than 50,000 specimens. Despite this, its population is seriously threatened by poaching because they are used for research and to make wigs. The fragmentation of its habitat is also a threat.

However, the biggest threat that this animal faces is climate change. The high altitude of their habitat maintains the right temperatures for them and their food. Therefore, increasing temperatures mean that the gelada needs to move higher up each year. The problem is that they can go no higher, so now, their habitat is simply shrinking. This makes the gelada a true climate change refugee.

Content created and supplied by: Wildlifestation (via Opera News )

American European Gelada Theropithecus capuchin


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