Suffering on the Frontline of Human-Wildlife Conflict
Vervet monkeys are among the most widely spread African monkeys. Although not endangered, these primates are being killed and injured through conflict with humans who are expanding into their shrinking habitats.
How Nikela Helps
Although vervet monkeys are not currently at risk of extinction, there are welfare concerns facing the species. Conflict with humans means baby monkeys are being orphaned and left to fend for themselves, plus other vervets suffer painful injuries after being caught in snares. Nikela supports Silke von Eynern who rescues and rehabilitates vervet monkeys giving them a second chance at freedom.
Information About Vervet Monkeys
Distribution & habitat
Vervet monkeys are found throughout most of southern and eastern Africa. They are an adaptable species, living in a diverse range of habitat types, including savannahs and swamps. They occupy both urban and rural environments.
Vervets are medium-sized monkeys. Their color varies, but their bodies are usually olive green or silver grey. They have black faces with a white band of hair across their foreheads. Vervets also have black hands, feet and tail tips. Adult males are larger than females. Males can also be identified by their distinctive turquoise blue scrotum.
Vervet monkeys are omnivores. They consume a range of plant material including fruits, leaves, seeds and flowers, and supplement their diets with meat by consuming bird eggs, chicks and insects. In urban areas, vervets will eat crops and bread. This crop-raiding behaviour means vervets are often considered pests by humans.
Margrit, (Nikela’s founder) remembers: “It happened at lightening speed! We’d just stopped at a rest camp (in the Kruger Park) to enjoy a quick snack and to watch the monkeys in the trees. I was holding my eighteen month old daughter on my hip. She was nibbling on a biscuit (cookie). I turned my head as my husband said, “Its coming…”, then “Waaa!” Doing absolutely no physical harm, the vervet swooped down, snatched the snack from my toddler’s hand and was back up in the tree. My family learned a thing or two that day about how to behave in the presence of a monkey troop.”
Behaviour and social groups
Vervet monkeys are diurnal (active during the daytime). They are a social animal and live in groups of around 30 individuals. The groups, called troops, are made up of a dominant male, related females, their offspring and lower status males. Juvenile vervets form close bonds with their female relatives, who share caring duties. For the first week of its life, a baby vervet monkey clings to its mother’s stomach. By around three weeks old, the monkey ventures away from its mother to interact with other juveniles.
Vervets move around on their four limbs. They spend their days on the ground feeding and travelling, before returning to the trees at night to sleep. Vervets have cheek pouches which enable them to store food when foraging to consume later.
The species uses vocalisations to communicate threats and to reinforce social bonds. Vervet monkeys have distinct sounds to alert others in the troop to predators like the leopard, eagle or snake.
Conservation status and threats
Vervet monkeys are classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. The species is not endangered but its numbers are decreasing. Vervet monkeys can be killed or injured when they venture into urban environments. Conflict with humans due to behaviours like food crop-raiding means vervets are considered pests and treated as vermin. Vervets are killed by dogs, vehicles, electricity pylons, poison and guns in urban areas. While in the wild, they are captured for bush meat, use in traditional medicines and medical research.
Information researched and provided by Nikela Volunteer Danielle Boobyer