Chasing a ghost: notes on the present distribution and conservation of the sooty mangabey (Cercocebus atys) in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa

Maria Joana Ferreira da Silva, Christina Paddock, Federica Gerini, Filipa Borges, Isa Aleixo-Pais, Mafalda Costa, Ivo Colmonero-Costeira, Catarina Casanova, Miguel Lecoq, Cristina Silva, Michael W. Bruford, Jorge Varanda, Tânia Minhós

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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The West-African sooty mangabey (Cercocebus atys) is threatened by habitat loss, hunting for meat consumption, and mortality during crop-foraging events. The species’ overall demographic trend is unknown. Presence and distribution in Guinea-Bissau, a country neighbored by Senegal and Republic of Guinea, was confirmed in 1946 but the species was declared extinct in 1989 and not observed in subsequent countrywide expeditions. Narratives of its presence across southern Guinea-Bissau are scattered in reports and occurrence in the eastern part was reported in 2017, but the limits of its distribution are currently unknown. Here, we present recent geo-referenced visual and molecular-based records of the sooty mangabey for three protected areas in southern Guinea-Bissau collected as part of a region-wide survey. Individuals were observed in Cufada Lagoons Natural Park (2015) and Dulombi National Park (NP) (2016) and photographed in Boé NP (2007, 2015 and 2020). Thirty-six samples collected in Boé NP (2017) were identified as sooty mangabey using a 402 base pair fragment of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene. Our work suggests a wider distribution in Guinea-Bissau than previously described, augments knowledge of the populations’ current habitat use and threats, and has implications for efforts to conserve the species in West Africa. Considering the sooty mangabey as the reservoir of the simian immunodeficiency virus that led to the human variant, HIV-2, confirmation that the Guinea-Bissau population is not extinct may lead to a better understanding of early viral jump to humans and consequent epidemic spread, specifically of the HIV-2 Subgroup A. We highlight the need for extra conservation measures by Guinea-Bissau authorities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-363
Number of pages7
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • Action plan
  • Boé National Park
  • DNA barcoding
  • Gallery forest
  • HIV-2 A
  • Viral jump


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