Life can be extremely difficult for the gelada monkeys of the Ethiopian highlands. With their regal manes, bright chest patches and intimidating canines, they might look like they get off easy, but the “bleeding heart” monkeys face endless challenges.
According to National Geographic, the primate spends its day searching for calories in low-quality vegetation on the high savanna. At night, the beasts battle cold and rain on the basalt cliffs they call home. They also have to fight off predators, and each other.
“We’ve always thought of them as leading pretty harsh lives,” Peter Fashing said to Nat Geo. Fashing is an anthropologist with California State University, Fullerton, who has helped oversee a gelada research project in the Ethiopia Highlands for almost 15 years with fellow primate expert Nga Nguyen.
The geladas are the world’s only grass-eating monkeys. They often live above 11,000 feet, and can only be found in Ethiopia’s highlands. It is unclear how many of them remain. Nat Geo writes that “death is never far for a gelada.” They have to battle leopards, hyenas, and wild dogs. But they also have to fear each other, as the adult men go to war over groups of women geladas. Plus, humans are slowly encroaching on the monkeys’ land, and the creatures are being pushed to smaller and smaller plots of land.
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