The Gelada Monkey
Gelada monkeys are quite baboon-like, with golden manes and elongated faces. This has led to them inaccurately being called ‘gelada baboons’ - but are in fact monkeys - and the only species of grass-grazing primates left, the rest having been wiped out when the climate warmed around a million years ago.
Apart from humans, they are the world’s most terrestrial primates.
Gelada monkeys have fascinating and complex social structures. They reside in packs of up to 1,200 monkeys, a truly astonishing sight when they are on the move. Within the packs, there are dominant males who have ‘harems’, with around 12 females that they mate with. Lurking on the outskirts are rather amusingly glum-looking groups of bachelor males.
Occasionally, a fight will take place between one - or several - of the bachelor males and a dominant male over ownership of the harem.
This is often started by the dominant males, who signals the challenge through an elaborate protocol of macho showmanship that includes emitting high-pitched noises and shaking the branches of a tree while shrieking.
These fights can last for days and are often brutal - the males have long, sharp teeth - and sometimes end with one of the monkeys being mortally wounded. Sometimes, however, one side will retreat when the game is up.
If it is the dominant male who loses, they may stay with the harem but in a kind of grandfather role, looking after the young but not mating with the females. His red patch will also lighten to become pink - the intensity of the colour is dictated by the strength of the monkeys’ hormone levels.
Another interesting element of their behaviour is the fact that they sleep on cliff edges at night. Fearing being picked off in their sleep by a predator such as a leopard if they sleep on flat ground, they spend the night on ledges which they are able to climb easily thanks to their short, stubby fingers, but where such predators would struggle.
The monkeys are highly sociable. They spend much of their days (often through noisy barks and cries) forming connections with other monkeys and grooming one another, unlike many other, more sedate primate species.
There is a strict hierarchy within their societies between the dominant male and others, but also between dominant and submissive females. One of their behaviours is particularly human - they enjoy spending several hours in the morning sunbathing.
Gelada monkeys are not an endangered species, however their numbers have dwindled in recent decades. Tourism can play an important role in ensuring that their numbers remain stable by providing a steady source of income to often impoverished local communities.
This provides the necessary incentive for the conservation of natural areas that might otherwise be destroyed by agriculture and infrastructure projects.
The best place to find Gelada monkeys in Ethiopia is in the highlands of the Simien Mountains National Park.
Visit Gelada Monkeys on these trips
Historic North and Luxury Lodges
Experience Ethiopia's northern circuit in style. Explore the incredible highland scenery, visit ancient monuments, discover unique cultural traditions, and break up your journey at luxury lodges set amongst incredible backdrops.…
- 12 Days
Historic North Circuit
Explore the Simien Mountains from a luxury lodge perched high in the escarpment, discover the architectural remains of ancient civilisations, and watch the sun set over the sandstone cliffs of Tigray. The Historic North Circuit is a flagship itinerary in…
- 12 Days
Historic North Circuit and Community Trekking
Fusing history, culture, landscapes and wildlife along a perfectly paced circuit, this trip is a synthesis of the very best experiences on offer in Ethiopia’s northern highlands. Explorations of the ancient cities Axum, Gondar, Bahir Dar and Lalibela are broken…
- 12 Days
Simien Mountains and Northern History
This trip packs in a myriad of history, culture and some of the best scenery in Africa. Explore the palaces of Gondar, the world-famous rock-hewn churches in Lalibela, and the sweeping plateaus of the Simien Mountains. Leave enough time either…
- 7 Days
Camping in the Simien Mountains
The classic 3-night camping circuit in the Simien Mountains. This trip is usually included as part of a wider itinerary in the country.…
- 4 Days
Classic Simiens Safari
The Simien Mountains are one of Ethiopia’s most stunning destinations. With its diverse flora and fauna, immense views and extraordinary geography, it’s an exceptional place that can be enjoyed by hardy trekkers and afternoon strollers alike. A couple of nights…
- 5 Days
Trekking in the Simien Mountains
Discover the beauty of the Simien Mountains with this one week trekking adventure. Our Brilliant local guides know all the hidden gems to get the most out of your time on the 'Roof of Africa'. Easy to incorporate into a…
- 7 Days
2 Day Simien Trek
An introduction to the Simien Mountains, this 2 day trek takes you to some of the major viewpoints of the primary escarpment, with one night spent camping at the beautiful Gich campsite.…
- 2 Days
3 Day Simien Trek
This 3 day Simien Trek is the perfect introduction to the national park. Enough time to hike to all the major viewpoints, see the wildlife, and enjoy the beauty of these highlands.…
- 3 Days
4 Day Simien Trek
This 4 day trek in the Simien Mountains starts and ends in Gondar. Hike from camp to camp, across the sweeping plateaus and down into the valleys.…
- 4 Days
6 Day Simien Trek
6 days trekking in the Simien Mountains, across the vast plateaus and down into the valleys to discover some of the most exciting regions of the park. A proper wilderness escape.…
- 6 Days