Wild 12 years
Captive 24 years
Vervet monkeys are among the most widespread monkeys found in Africa. Here they live not only in wild habitats such as the savanna but they will also make their way in to suburbs.
Here they feed on a highly varied diet of omnivorous food. This includes a range of plant and animal matter.
Five subspecies are found across the range of vervet monkeys.
These animals live in large family groups with up to 50 members with a strict hierarchy. This is reinforced through grooming.
Read on to learn more about these magnificent monkeys.
Across the body of a vervet monkey they are covered with greenish-olive or silvery grey fur. The face is black with a white band across the forehead. They have black fur on the ears, feet and the tip of the tail.
Whiskers are present on the sides of the face.
Male vervet monkeys have a bright blue scrotum which is used as a signal or dominance over the males in the group.
An adult vervet monkey will measure between 35 and 66cm (14-27in) long with a weight of 2.5-9kg (5.5-20lbs). Males tend to be slightly smaller than females. The males also have longer canine teeth than females.
At the end of the body is a tail measuring between 30 and 50cm (11.8-19.7in) long.
Vervet monkeys are omnivores. The primary component of their diet is plant matter such as leaves, young shoots, bark, flowers, fruit, bulbs, roots and seeds. They supplement this part of their diet with animals such as small birds, rodents, insects and eggs.
They are dependent on water and to survive must drink each day.
These animals help to disperse seeds in their environment. They will consume them and then excrete them intact some distance away.
Food can be stored in pouches in the cheek. These can store food ready for them to eat later.
They have color vision which allows them to choose which fruits are ripe and unripe.
Africa is the native home of the vervet monkey. They are one of the continent’s most widespread monkey species. They make their home throughout the following countries – Botswana; Burundi; Eswatini; Ethiopia; Kenya; Malawi; Mozambique; Rwanda; Somalia; South Africa; Tanzania; Uganda; Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The natural habitat of the vervet monkey includes savanna, open woodland and forest-grassland. Most of the time they live near rivers and lakes.
Vervet monkeys have adapted to life alongside humans and may be seen living in the suburbs of some of the largest cities in their range. They can also make use of disturbed habitats or cropping regions.
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Their is some seasonal variation in breeding season though it tends to fall between April and June meaning the young are born at the end of the rainy season. This ensures an ample food supply.
Females give birth to a single infant after a 5.5 month gestation period. Twins are possible but considered uncommon. At birth the juveniles have black fur and a pink face. They will not take on the adult coloration till three or four months old.
The first few weeks of their life is spent clinging to the mother’s stomach. By three weeks old they are moving around on their own.
Infants are a popular part of the group and females seek access to hold or groom the infant.
A female vervet will remain in her birth group for life while males must leave at sexual maturity and join another group. This process puts them in danger and often they will complete this during the breeding season when the group they are attempting to enter is distracted.
Often the male will go with a sibling or peer to provide back-up when arriving at the new group.
Babies are weaned off of milk by eight or nine months old.
Females mature by 3 years old with males reaching this milestone at 5 years old. In captivity females may mature as early as 2 years old.
Vervet monkeys have a unique call for each predator which they may come across. Their vocalizations also express their mood with calls that express alarm, excitement, rage and sadness.
The different predator calls will each evoke a different group response which is most efficient for evading that particular predator.
Grooming is important to remove parasites, dirt and other material from the fur. Dominant individuals get groomed more often. Grooming is also part of courtship activities during mating season.
Dominant males will hold their tail in a stiff position above them and then walk past the lower ranked males.
These primates are highly social with a group size of up to 50 individuals.
The large group size is an adaptation which helps to identify predators more easily and to defend against rival groups which may seek to enter their territory.
Across most of their range a troop of vervet monkeys will defend their habitat and its resources against other troops. In areas with abundant resources they will allow other groups to move through their territory as they move around.
At night they will take to the trees where they can sleep. They keep them safe from some of their predators.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the vervet monkey include leopards, hyenas, snakes, baboons and eagles.
Humans often view vervet monkeys as pests of farms due to their habitat of stealing food. This has created an annual slaughter which is carried out by poisoning or shooting.
These animals are also trapped for use in research and for the bushmeat trade.
Despite their adaptability the primary threat to the vervet monkey is habitat destruction and fragmentation.
Five subspecies of the vervet monkey are recognized.
Derek Keats from Johannesburg, South Africa, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Middle One and Two
Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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