Thursday, 8 May 2014

Have you heard about the green monkey living in Africa?

The Vervet or ‘African green monkey’ (Cercopithecus aethiops), Tumbili in Swahili is next up in my series of primates living in Diani. A very common sight in Diani, like the Sykes and Baboons they come into daily human conflict, and can be considered pests over their opportunistic stealing of human food.

A Vervet monkey

The Vervet is a very versatile monkey able to adapt and survive in a wide range of habitats including savannah, woodland, riverine, lake-shore and coastal forests; although they normally don’t inhabit heavily forested areas or very open grasslands. They are widely distributed through Africa south of the Sahara desert and across Kenya; even in Nairobi. Vervets are equally at home on the ground and in the trees, which obviously aids their ability to adapt to different environments. 

Vervets in an open grassland environment

They are mainly a grey-brown colour with white under parts and a white fringed black face, long whitish cheek whiskers, white brow, black feet (like they walked in paint) and a black tip to their tail. Interestingly males have a light blue scrotum, red penis and red peri-anus and weigh around 4 to 6kg, measuring 40 to 60cm when adult. Where as the females weigh around 2 to 5kg and measure 30 to 50cm. The female breast can often have a bluish tinge to them. Infants have similar, but lighter colouration than adults, the most obvious difference being their lighter, pinkish faces. 

A female Vervet monkey
A baby Vervet showing the slight pinkness still in his face
The blue scrotum of a Vervet male

Vervets are omnivorous and like the Sykes are opportunistic feeders (like with human food). Their main diet is made up of flowers, fruits, seeds, roots, bark, gum, eggs, insects and small invertebrates. They will take human food and can be dangerous when tourists feed them. 

Social Structure: 
The group size is usually between 20-30 individuals with a linear dominance hierarchy among males and a kinship relationship among females. The Vervets have been documented to some complex communications that can be different for certain situations and getting different responses in return. For example, alarm calls for aerial predators differ from alarm calls from snakes (on the ground) – requiring the Vervets to look in different places for danger. 

A group of Vervets investigating someones garden

Grooming is an essential part of bonding and cleaning

Monkeys as pests: 
With the exception of the colobus the other monkeys in Diani, are opportunistic feeders, taking what food they can when they can, and will raid crops or steal food from kitchens in homes or hotels. Some local residents have appalling methods to deter these individuals: from throwing paint over them to stoning them or using bows and arrows. 

Although small in size they are not short on aggresion

This human-wildlife conflict is made worse when well meaning individuals giving monkeys food – as the monkeys come to associate humans with food. Men can generally rebuff monkeys who may approach them, but women and children are at risk of being bitten when they refuse to give monkeys food. 

Dogs do sometimes come into conflict with monkeys

To combat this, CC has developed a detailed guide on managing the pest problem and provides workshops and training sessions for hotels and private houses. We also hope that you can help us by explaining to others why monkeys must not be fed. 

Here is some Vervet yoga

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.

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