As we close out the year, we take a look at the little known yet human-like primate species – Vervet Monkey
Like many primates, the Vervet Monkey, also known as the Green or Grivet monkey, shares many of its traits with the human race. They have smooth faces, five-digit fingers and toes, and share over 90% of our DNA. The Vervet Monkey has been around for an estimated 65 million years. They are one among five of the indigenous species that have historically thrived on the continents of African and Asia. Because of this, they are considered Old World primates.
As Old World primates, Vervet Monkeys move fast on all four of their limbs. They are also capable of feeling emotions such as depression, anger, and happiness. Most of these emotions are expressed through biting. When a Vervet Monkey bites a human, it may be mistaken as a sign of aggression when it is actually one of pleasure. Vervet Monkeys also have 36 different calls as well as over 60 gestures that they use to communicate.
Why the Vervet Monkey is in Jeopardy
Unfortunately, these monkeys are also considered “pests” by many humans, oftentimes leading to their abuse at our hands. The once-common belief that the Vervet monkey was a carrier of rabies contributed to their undeserved title as vermin. In the 1930s, due to an incident where a Cabinet Minister’s son was bitten by a Vervet monkey, a “Vermin” law was executed, allowing every citizen in South Africa to shoot as many Vervet Monkeys as they desired.
This law was eventually revoked in 2005, after the plunge in Vervet Monkey population numbers was brought to the attention of environment conservationists. We have also realized that Vervet monkeys cannot be carriers of rabies, as they are primates and would die from the disease. Vervet Monkeys have also never tested positive for diseases such as AIDS, although they are susceptible to many milder illnesses, such as influenza and the chicken pox. It is possible to vaccinate Vervet Monkeys for many of the diseases which they do carry, including
This once proliferating species has now dwindled in number. Where there once used to be millions in the wild, there are now 250,000. Despite the revoking of the “Vermin” law, and conscious efforts to create safe spaces for the Vervet Monkey, the species is still in danger. Humans plunder land once part of the Vervet Monkey’s natural habitat, we increase their dependence upon human litter and waste.
Humans who feed the monkeys also inadvertently contribute to the Vervet Monkey’s dependence on humans. In addition to this, drug testing laboratories also take advantage of the Vervet Monkey’s internal structure, due to the fact that it is similar to that of a human. In many cases, while being tested on, the monkeys are held in enclosures which do not match conditions in the wild, such as enclosures without stimulation or biodiversity.
Vervet monkeys are exploited and sold on a black market system. Because of their internal body structure, which is similar to ours, they are sold to laboratories all over the world. Baby Vervet Monkeys, on the other hand, are sold as pets on the Pet Trade market after their mothers are systematically killed. Because of their lack of understanding regarding the social and medical needs of Vervet Monkeys, humans often make poor “replacement” mothers for Vervet Monkeys after trying to keep them as pets. After failing to take them in as pets, humans will often release Vervet Monkeys into the wild, mistakenly believing the monkey will be able to adapt and adjust to the conditions in the bush. This is most certainly not the case, as pet Vervet Monkeys have grown dependent on human care, and have no hope of survival on their own in the wild.
How are they being protected?
There are many things that can be done to help the state of this species:
One thing that is being done right now education. With better understanding of how Vervet Monkeys behave, humans can hope to peacefully co-exist with them in the future without interfering with their natural habitats.
We can also change people’s perceived notion of the Vervet Monkey as a pest, or an animal that needs to be rid of. Conservation schools, in Africa, for example, are set aside on rural areas and create generations that are committed to keeping the species and wildlife around them safe.
Fostering a mutual relationship between the Vervet Monkeys and those who live in indigenous tribes is important, as there are tribes who rely on the Vervet Monkeys for food. Some have suggested that these tribes could employ sustainability by eating only the male Vervet Monkeys and not the females, ensuring the survival of the species while satisfying their own hunger. However, this practice is repugnant to many and would not be considered a viable solution.
For most, simple steps, such as creating secure storage places and refraining from feeding Vervet Monkeys in the wild, can help the species thrive once more.
Why they are important to the Ecosystem
Vervet Monkeys are needed because they play an important role in helping our ecosystem run smoothly. Not only do they pollinate flowers with their hair, but they also serve as a natural population control for many species of insects and prevent overpopulation of the Finch bird. Without the Vervet Monkeys, the Finches could contribute to large agricultural losses, and lead to a barren wasteland as the food web is broken down in ecosystems that they are a necessary part of.
An ideal future world is one in which humans can peacefully coexist with nature.
Contributed by Nikela Volunteer Sanika Phadnis
Premier Primate Rehabber Silke at Bambelela – “Vervet Monkeys [Chlorocebus aethiops / pygerythrus]”
“AWF – Check out the Vervet Monkey!” African Wildlife Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Dec. 2015.