Vervet Monkey

These monkeys have developed what is effectively a language, with a vocabulary of different calls that can warn of different predators such as snakes and eagles.

Like many monkey species, vervets are very social, forming communicative groups of up to 50 individuals. Vervet monkeys are very vocal, and also communicate by facial gestures. These monkeys have a broad repertoire of calls, and are able to express alarm, excitement, rage and even sadness. Vervet monkeys forage in trees and occasionally on the ground. If predators are spotted, particular alarm calls are given, depending on the type of predator approaching. When vervet monkeys hear their snake alarm call, they all stand upright, scanning the surrounding grass for pythons. If they hear their leopard alarm call, they run into the trees, keeping their eyes on the leopard, and if they hear their eagle alarm call, they hide deep in the tree canopy.

Female vervet monkeys tend to remain in the groups into which they were born, whereas males are forced to leave when they become sexually mature, moving into new groups. Vervet monkeys have adapted well to living alongside people.

Male vervet monkeys possess bright blue scrotums, which are used in signals of dominance over other males in a group.

Intelligent and adaptable, these monkeys inhabit relatively open country. They may forage either on the ground or in the trees. They are common in even the suburbs of big cities. Many people welcome their presence, but others treat them as pests because they can damage property and crops. Their curiosity can lead them into trouble, however, as in the Caribbean, where they have a reputation for stealing alcoholic drinks from holiday-makers.

Distribution: Occurs in Africa, south of the Sahara. Also present in the Caribbean on Barbados and St Kitts, having been introduced there during the era of the slave trade.

Habitat: Riverine woodland, wooded savannah, open forests and agricultural land.

Weight: 2.5 - 4.5 kg (5.5 - 10 lb); males are heavier.

Length: 64 - 93 cm (25 - 37 in) overall; tail is usually longer than the body.

Maturity: 4 - 6 years.

Gestation Period: About 210 days; births coincide with the start of the wet season.

Breeding: 1; weaning occurs from 6 months.

Diet: Feeds mainly on fruit, plus other plant matter, invertebrates and small vertebrates.

Lifespan: Up to 20 years.

Status: Common.


The slight greenish tinge to the fur explains why they are called vervet monkeys.


The hands, like the feet, are black and similar to human hands in structure.


A bright blue colouration of the skin on the scrotum shows a male of high social status.


Females in the group are responsible for taking care of the young and will discipline them if they behave badly.

Wild cats will prey on these monkeys, but vervet monkeys are agile and can usually escape easily off the ground.