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Vervet Monkeys


 Vervet Monkeys

The Vervet monkey (Chlorocebus aethiops) forms the highest developed order of the animal kingdom. Zoologically the human is also classified under the order primates. This classification of such diversified creatures as old world apes, half apes and the human under one order, results from common characteristics of which the most important is the five fingered limbs, the formation of the teeth, the absence of facial hair and presence of flat finger nails. 

Vervet monkeys are diurnal animals, they can distinguish certain colours which is extraordinary amongst animals. 

They are able to show emotion by means of mime. These are amongst the reasons why vervet monkeys are popular animals for zoos and as pets. The SA Problem animal ordinance encourages people to keep vervet monkeys as pets, maybe because people "see or recognise" something of themselves in monkeys!

This close relationship with humans pose a few problems for the species. They are popular for experiments regarding liver, kidney and other organ transplant techniques, cancer research, they are also used in AIDS research, pharmacological, immunological and psychological research and on  game farms they are often used for target practice. Keeping vervet monkeys in cages pose a serious threat to these animals because they can't survive in captivity for long without showing signs of serious malfunction.

The vervet monkey species is probably about 7 million years old, some 6500 million years older than modern day humans. One of the important adaptations for tree and ground life are the eyes, hands and feet of the monkey. The eyes are stereoscopic which enables the vervet to gauge distances between branches and between trees and ground level. Their ability to distinguish colours and to see three dimensional assists in finding food. 

Both the hands and feet can change grip and can hold onto articles. The formation of the hands and feet enable the monkeys to live either on the ground or in trees. Because vervet monkeys spend a great part of the day on the ground, their feet are developed in such a way that they can walk for long distances. The teeth of the vervet monkey is typical of omnivores; it is able to handle plant material as well as meat.

Diet of the Vervet Monkey

1. Flowers
2. Fruits
3. Seeds
4. Swollen thorns
5. Gum
6. Leaves (tree and grass)
7. Fungi and other plant parts (mushrooms on termite mounds and under Jackal berry trees, tubers, roots, stalks and sterns).
8. Animals (baby birds, termites, arthropods, geckos, spiders, scorpions, dragonflies, grasshoppers, bird's eggs).
9. Unidentified foods
10. Most cultivated foods (citrus: oranges, naartjies, lemons, vegetables: cabbage, butternuts, lettuce and any locally grown varieties).
11. Water

Activities of the Vervet Monkey

1. Walk: identified as slowest gait; when feet visible, only one foot off the ground at any given time.
2. Forage while walking: scan vegetation while walking.
3. Feed while walking: chew or ingest food while walking or moving in trees.
4. Lope: identified as faster than walking with a rocking motion: when feet visible, front and hind feet alternating suspension off ground.
5. Run: identified as fastest gait: when feet visible, all feet suspended simultaneously off ground at some point in the stride.
6. Climb: quadrupled movement within trees or bushes.
7. Leap: substantial vertical movement with all four feet off the substrate at height of vertical movement.
8. No movement: resting, sleeping or being still, excludes all other categories.
9. Forage without moving: search, scan or manipulate food item at close range while stationary.
10. Feed without moving: chew or ingest food item while stationary.
11. Auto groom: scratching, combing through one's own fur.
12. Social groom: combing through another's fur, cuddling of babies by all members of troop.
13. Safety of troop: distance allowed for babies to move away from mother or any other fostering member, alarm calls to danger, and reaction of individual making the call and response from troop, which member of the troop will take charge of babies and what is the specific role of the mother during the exercise.
14. Play: when two or more babies, juveniles and/or adults engage in touching and running  or chasing each other around.


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Riverside Wildlife Rehabilitation and Environmental Education Centre, P.O. Box 161, Letsitele 0885, Limpopo Province, South Africa.
Phone: +27 (0)15 3451050, E-mail: river-edu@mweb.co.za, Website: http://www.primate-sa.org