||18 to 26 inches
||7 to 17 pounds
||24 years in captivity
||Woodland, savanna and
This small, black-faced monkey is common in East Africa as
it adapts easily to many environments and is widely distributed.
The different types of vervets vary in color, but
generally the body is a greenish-olive or silvery-gray. The
face, ears, hands, feet and tip of the tail are black, but a
conspicuous white band on the forehead blends in with the short
whiskers. The males are slightly larger than the females and
easily recognized by their turquoise blue scrota.
The vervet is classified as a medium-sized to large
monkey-males weigh up to 17 pounds. Its tail is usually held up,
with the tip curving downward. Its arms and legs are
approximately the same length.
In East Africa these monkeys can live in mountain areas up to
about 13,000 feet, but they do not inhabit rain forests or
deserts. Their preferred habitat is acacia woodland along
streams, rivers and lakes. They are diurnal, sleeping and eating
in trees from which they seldom venture.
Complex but stable social groups (also called troops) of 10
to 50 individuals mainly consist of adult females and their
immature offspring. Males move freely in and out of these groups.
Within the troop, each adult female is the center of a small
family network. Females who have reached puberty generally stay
in the troop.
Grooming is important in a monkey's life. Vervets (as well as
most other primates) spend several hours a day removing
parasites, dirt or other material from one another's fur. In the
primates' hierarchy, dominant individuals get the most grooming.
The hierarchical system also controls feeding, mating, fighting,
friendships and even survival.
Leaves and young shoots are most important in the diet, but
bark, flowers, fruit, bulbs, roots and grass seeds are also
consumed. The mainly vegetarian diet is supplemented with
insects, grubs, eggs, baby birds and sometimes rodents and hares.
Vervets rarely drink water.
Caring for the Young
Infant vervet monkeys are suckled for about 4 months. When
they become adept at feeding themselves solid food, the weaning
process begins, although it may not be completed until the
vervet is 1 year old.
Close social bonds with female relatives begin to develop in
infancy, relationships thought to endure throughout life.
Infants are of great interest to the other monkeys in the troop;
subadult females do everything possible to be allowed to groom
or hold a new infant.
After a birth, the mother licks the infant clean, bites off
the umbilical cord and eats the afterbirth. The newborn has
black hair and a pink face; it will be 3 or 4 months before it
acquires adult coloration.
The infant spends the first week of life clinging to its
mother's stomach. After about the third week, it begins to move
about by itself and attempts to play with other young monkeys.
Vervet mothers are proprietary in the treatment of their babies,
and some will not allow young or even other adult females to
hold or carry them. Others gladly leave their infants in charge
of any interested female. Researchers report that usually a
female's close family members will have the most unrestricted
access to the babies. As the infants grow, they play not only
with monkeys but with other young animals. Young vervets chase
one another, wrestle, tumble and play "king-of-the-castle,"
taking turns pushing each other off a high perch.
Vervets rarely venture further than about 500 yards from the
trees, since they are vulnerable to a variety of predators,
including leopards, caracals, servals, baboons, large eagles,
crocodiles and pythons. Though they usually confine contact
calls to chirping and chittering, vervets scream and squeal when
Did you know?
- Vervet monkeys living near areas inhabited by people can
become pests, stealing food and other items and raiding crops.
Good climbers, jumpers and swimmers, they often elude capture.
- In sexual and dominance displays vervet monkeys run the
gamut from shaking branches and jumping around to making a
hard 'kek-kek-kek' sound to mark their territories.