• 083-454-8441 | +27 14-736-4090
  • info@bambelela.org.za

About Vervet Monkeys

Birth and Early Life

  • After a birth, the mother licks the infant clean, bites off the umbilical cord and sometimes eats the afterbirth.
  • Babies are called Pinkfaces because at birth they are pink in the face, and also the ears, the hands and the feet – it will be 3 or 4 months before a baby monkey acquires adult coloration.
  • The infant spends the first weeks of life clinging to its mother’s stomach.
  • After about the third week, it begins to move about by itself and attempts to play with other young monkeys.
  • Vervet mothers are proprietary in the treatment of their babies, and some will not allow young or even other adult females to hold or carry them.
  • Others gladly leave their infants in charge of any interested female – researchers report that usually a female’s close family members will have the most unrestricted access to the babies.
  • As the infants grow, they play not only with monkeys but with other young animals.
  • Young Vervets chase one another, wrestle, tumble and play “king-of-the-castle”, taking turns pushing each other off a high perch.
  • Infant Vervet monkeys are suckled for 4-12 months.


Troops, Grooming and Feeding

  • Complex but stable groups (called troops) of 10-50 individuals consist of adult females and their immature offspring and 1 or more mature males.
  • Males transfer out of these troops up to 7 times in their life span.
  • Within the troop, each adult female is the center of a small family network. Females born into the troop –  generally stay in the troop.
  • Grooming is important in a monkey’s life – Vervets (as well as most other primates) spend several hours a day removing parasites, dirt or other material from one another’s fur .
  • In the primates’ hierarchy, dominant individuals get the most grooming.
  • The hierarchical system also controls feeding, mating, fighting, friendships and even survival.
  • Leaves and young shoots are most important in the diet, but bark, flowers, fruit, bulbs, roots and grass seeds are also consumed.
  • The mainly vegetarian diet is supplemented with insects, grubs, eggs and baby birds.
  • Vervets love living at riverines and can often been seen swimming in the water.


Weaning, Social Bonds and Predators

  • When they become adept at feeding themselves solid food, the weaning process begins, although it may not be completed until the Vervet is 1 year old.
  • Close social bonds with female relatives begin to develop in infancy, relationships thought to endure throughout life.
  • Infants are of great interest to the other monkeys in the troop.
  • Subadult females do everything possible to be allowed to groom or hold a new infant!
  • Vervets rarely venture further than about 500 yards from the trees, since they are vulnerable to a variety of predators.
  • Predators include leopards, caracals, large eagles, crocodiles and pythons – and man.
  • They usually confine contact calls to chirping and chattering, but Vervets scream and squeal when in danger. 36 different calls are known and over 60 communication skills in gesture.


Protection and Fines

  • Vervet monkeys are NOT classified as ‘vermin’ or ‘breeding out of control’, nor is there a population explosion.
  • Vervet monkeys are protected, in terms of both national and provincial conservation legislation and also in terms of national animal protection legislation.
  • Injuring or killing them is an offence!
  • There are penalties of up to 25,000 Rand and/or imprisonment for the illegal killing of South Africa’s indigenous primates.
  • Pellet guns and catapults are a scourge – Vervets shot with pellets rarely die instantly.
  • Instead, the pellets cause injuries that result in a slow and agonizing death over days and weeks.
  • Stones, steel or lead balls, marbles, etc., shot at monkeys with a catapult cause severe and life threatening injuries, such as smashed eyes and broken bones.
  • It is illegal, unnecessary and very cruel – DON’T DO IT!!!


Vervet Aggression and Disease Transmission

  • Vervets do NOT attack people or pets but they will bite in self-defence if they are attacked!
  • Vervets will threaten any person or other animal they regard as an immediate threat to their safety or that of a fellow troop member, but these threats are merely defensive aggression and are intended only to warn off a possible aggressor and are not carried through to actual attack.
  • Concerns that Vervets will bite children who encounter them in the garden or home are unfounded.
  • Thousands of children experience close encounters with Vervets in KZN every day – none get nasty bites!
  • However, young Vervets’ social behaviour is to play a ‘catch-game’ amongst each other and, if they play with humans, it is possible that they will leave a scratch or a nip on the human’s skin.
  • In a Vervet’s world that’s what they do as an encouragement and invite to play – they do not know about the impact of their sharp canines or finger nails on a human skin!
  • ​Vervets do NOT transmit disease.
  • Fears that Vervets are carriers of rabies or other infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans are unfounded.
  • There has never been a recorded case of a rabid Vervet, which can be confirmed by the State Vet.


Vervet Monkeys and Our Ecological System

  • Vervets are vital to our ecological system.
  • They are an integral part of the natural food chain in parts of Africa.
  • They provide natural insect control by eating the eggs and larvae of many species.
  • They provide natural finch control, thereby preventing the demise of the grasslands.
  • They assist in the germination, pollination and dispersal of various floras;
  • Their messy eating habits distribute food from high places to the ground for ground feeding animals.


If you spot a Vervet monkey which appears to be tame, or is injured or whose life or well-being is threatened,
please call 014-736-4090 immediately!

​Bambelela rescues such animals, restores them to health and
prepares them for release back into the wild