Friday, 11 April 2014

You've heard about Elmo from Sesame Street, well here is the primate version; Sykes.

Next in my series of introducing the Diani primates is the cute, the comical and the silly, it is of course the one and only Sykes monkey (Cercopithecus mitis) or Kima in Swahili. In Diani we have a south coast sup-species (Cercopithecus albogularis ssp albogularis).

Although I know them as Sykes they are also called blue monkeys or samango’s and what’s great about watching them, is that anything they seem to do makes me laugh as there facial features and body language are very comical; and I will try to depict this within the photos I show you.

Sykes monkey

Distribution & Habitat:
The Sykes monkeys are far more common than the colobus monkey and are widely distributed all over the Kenyan coast and seen everywhere. They are semi-arboreal semi-terrestrial and are comfortable in both environments, they often come down to the ground where the youngsters love to run around and play. Their habitat mainly consists of thick forest areas, which includes the coastal forests.

Happy grooming in the trees

Equally happy playing on the ground

Sykes monkeys have an average life span of around 27 years in the wild. They can range from 50 to 70cm in body length the males can weigh between 6-9kg and females 3-6kg. The majority of they colouring is grey, but they do have a blackish tail, limbs and shoulders with some chestnutty patches on their back and face. Finally they have a white chin and throat and a white ruff that extends around part of their neck. They have gorgeous brown/orange eyes with a slightly large squashed nose; it reminds me of Elmo from Sesame Street.

Unlike the colobus Sykes eat a wide range of foods and are omnivorous and opportunistic; especially when it comes to unsuspecting tourists. Their main diet is shoots, fruits, leaves, flowers and berries, but they do also consume eggs, insects and as mentioned before any human food they can get their hands on. Don’t be surprised to see them hunting through bags and raiding hotel rooms for snacks. I was watching a group ransacking an office that someone had left open, things were being knocked over, chewed on and Sykes were running out the door/window with their prize.

I don't think that medication is for you

Social Structure:
Sykes are very territorial and live in female bonded; single-male troops and the group size can vary between 4-65 individuals averaging around 20 in Diani. The groups are very stable and peaceful with the resident male maintaining dominance for years and the sub-adult males being evicted readily.

Sykes group

Sometimes an outsider male will learn to imitate the call of the group’s dominant male to attract the females away. I personally believe this would also attract the dominant male as he might think, oh another big male nearby better defend my territory.

Sykes showing they are not always cute and cuddly taking on 3 Vervets

Sykes can often be seen in and around other primate species especially the colobus monkeys and it is not uncommon to see the young of both species actually playing together. It is thought the colobus tolerate the Sykes as they are extremely vigilant and are usually first to notice any danger. Their calls are varied and interesting to hear. Soft like trilling sounds given by the sub-adults are a sign of submission and you have loud chirps for alarm calls. The dominant male’s throat call is, in my opinion, the coolest sound they make, like he is booming out a swallowing call.

Sykes grooming a Vervet

A Sykes playing with a colobus

As a species C. mitis are rated as ‘least concern’ by the IUCN as it is widespread, common, present in numerous protected areas, and there are no major threats. However, when considered at subspecies level their rating ranges from data deficient to critically endangered.

Overall a pretty sweet little monkey that can sometimes have human confrontations with it’s sneaky stealing skills. Sooner or later all will fall in love with this monkey’s charm.

As always the pictures are owned by the author and under their copyright. They are uploaded at a lower quality as my internet in Kenya is slow.

You can see all my photos of my time in Kenya on my Flickr page here -

Or on my Facebook page here -



"The views and opinions expressed in the Diary of a Primatologist blog are purely my own and are not in any way linked to any organisations I may represent or work with unless otherwise stated. All photos are my own unless otherwise stated and a source will be provided where other photos are used; if they are yours and you would like them taken down then please just ask. The author retains full copyright for all content and photos and written permission is required before their use. The owner of the site is not liable for any content accessed through links posted."

No comments:

Post a Comment