Scientific Name: Cercopithecus aethiops
Weight: Male: 5.5kgs – Female: 4kgs
Shoulder Height: Male: 49cm – Female: 45cm
General Habitat: Savanah woodland / wooded habitats
Whether out on safari or simply enjoying the lodge, Vervet Monkeys are always a delight. These small, grey monkeys are very cute and easily win over many a guest. Vervet Monkeys are intelligent yet very mischievous and are always on the lookout for an opportunity to snatch a snack around the lodge. We often encounter these monkeys around Little Bush Camp, Selati Camp and Bush Lodge due to the location along a dry riverbed which means that the vegetation in these areas is rather dense and lends itself to the presence of Vervet Monkeys who often seek refuge in the large riverine trees.
Where there is one Vervet there are many as these monkeys move around in troops normally consisting of between 8-50 members. Like most monkeys, Vervets are very sociable and form rather strong bonds with troop members. There is generally an alpha male in a troop who will hold the mating rights, whereas female Vervets are also ranked, normally one female will be superior. The rank of juvenile females will be determined by that of her mother’s rank. Normally the superior individuals will have first pickings when it comes to acquiring food and water. When a female has a baby, she will carry it around on her front but is also rather relaxed when it comes to allowing other members of the troop to handle it. Other younger females tend to care for the offspring of mature females and are often found grooming and cuddling these youngsters. Baby Vervets will generally be seen moving somewhat independently within the troop foraging at around 6 months old.
Vervet Monkeys have a relatively varied diet consisting of leaves, berries, shoots, sap, flowers (nectar), insects and have even been known to consume small nestlings and eggs. Often a Vervet’s day begins after sunrise where they awake in the safety of a large tree such as a Jackalberry or a Weeping Boerbean. After socialising and playing (juveniles), they will spend the better part of the day foraging for food, whilst they may do this at ground level, the majority of feeding usually happens amidst the reaching branches of trees.
Vervet Monkeys are known to have territories and normally when a male approaches maturity (±5yrs), he will often emigrate (sometimes with other males) to a neighbouring troop which may already contain brothers or cousins of his. Vervets are not simply welcomed with open arms and often the newcomers must put up with aggressive behaviour from not only other males but larger females as well.
Pretty remarkably, Vervet Monkeys have 36 unique calls and many other physical gestures which they will use to communicate with one another. Interestingly enough, mature males who often act as sentinels make use of genital display to intimidate neighbouring troops. They sit or stand in such a way that the bright red penis and bright blue scrotum can easily be seen. Sentinels are necessary as they are required to keep watch and alert members of possible danger. This includes sightings of Leopard, Lion and very large birds of prey.
My Memorable Sighting
I think its safe to say that viewing Vervet Monkeys loitering around camp is always intriguing. They will often lurk in the surrounding trees waiting for an opportunity to steal a fruit, biscuit, muffin or whatever else they are quick enough to grab whilst nobody is watching. We strongly discourage this and are quick to chase them off. Whilst these monkeys gain affection from many a guest, feeding them is prohibited (throughout wildlife reserves in Africa). This is for their own wellbeing as if they constantly associate lodges with easy food, they may become a nuisance. That being said, watching Vervets cavorting and getting up to their daily antics is always captivating.