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The Vervet Monkey

Africa is  home to another endangered mammal,  the vervet monkey. Scientifically known as Chlorocebus pygerythrus, the vervet monkey belongs to the family Cercopithecidae. All members of genus Chlorecebus is refered to as “vervet”. When the African slave trade transpired in Nevis, Barbados, and Saint Kitts, the vervet monkeys were also transported. Vervet monkeys are very social. They can form groups of 10 to 70 individual monkeys. The male vervet monkeys change their groups once they reach  maturity.

The distinct physical features of vervet monkeys are the gray fur on its body and a black facial coloration with a white fringe of fur. Males are 50 cm or 19 inches long and about 5.5 kilograms or 12 pounds. The female of the species is about 40 cm or 16 inches long and about 4.1 kilograms or 9 pounds. Both genders have long legs and arms, making them formidable when it comes to running.

A steady vegetarian diet is what the vervet monkeys depend on. They love to eat leaves, wild fruits, seedpods, seeds, and flowers. This makes them a problem for people who depend on agriculture. Vervet monkeys usually target grain crops, young tobacco plants, bean crops, and peas. They also eat the cattle egrets (chicks and eggs), weaver birds (chicks and eggs), termites, and grasshoppers.

Vervet monkeys inhabit East and Southern Africa (South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia). They frequently stay in mountains (up to 13,100 feet), coastal forests, savannas, and woodlands. They also like to inhabit urban and rural areas, where there are cultivated lands.

When female vervets start their heat cycle, they do not exhibit external signs or behavioral changes. If they do get pregnant, gestation lasts for about 165 days. Female vervet monkeys commonly have only one infant that weighs about 300 to 400 grams. On rare occasions, a female can give birth to twins.

Male and female vervet monkeys have different groups. Males eventually travel great distances to find adjacent groups. This reduces the possibility of inbreeding within the species. Females usually stay in their groups all their lives. Both genders can be friendly or aggressive with other vervet monkeys, inside or outside their groups. They use vocalizations to communicate with one another. In fact, they can recognize members and monitor other groups with their calls.

Conflict occurs among vervet monkeys that are at least three years old. It suddenly happens when aggression from a different group is thrown towards the relative of another group and there are actually small vervet wars.

Caracals, leopards, crocodiles, servals, large eagles, and pythons prey on vervet monkeys. Despite the given natural predation, this species of monkeys are most commonly preyed on and  harmed by human habitation. Bullets, poison, dogs, pellet guns, electricity pylons, and medical research contribute to the dwindling of the vervet monkey population.