In all corners of Uganda you travel, you will probably spot the inquisitive primates known as the Vervet monkeys. They are scientifically known as Chlorocebus pygerythrus and belong to the Old World Monkey family of Cercopithecidae that are endemic to most African countries, with Uganda inclusive hence you will always encounter them during tours in Uganda.
Vervet monkeys are sub-divided into five distinctive sub-species that are Chlorocebus. P. rufoviridis, C. p. excubitor, C. p. pygerythus, C. p. hilgerti as well as C. p. nesiotes. The one you will find during Uganda safaris is characterized by a reddish-colored back and darker towards the tail base.
They occupy a wide range of habitats including mountains (standing up to 4000 meters above sea level), savannah, riverine, coastal forests and woodlands much as are known to adapt and thrive within secondary or vegetation at the edges of cultivated areas. Surprisingly, they can survive within urban and rural settings.
These monkey species are distinguished by their black faces along with the white hair edges whereas their general hair color is generally grizzled-grey.
They are herbivores with their diet mainly comprising of leaves, wild fruits, figs, seeds, flowers and seed pods much as can also consume grasshoppers, eggs and chicks of weaver birds and cattle egrets as well as termites. They are known as vermin because they raid agricultural lands and destroy young tobacco plants, beans, fruits, grains especially maize, peas, bananas and other fruits.
The adult male vervet monkeys have pale-blue scrotum and red penis as you will witness when you visit some of the National Parks. They are found within Kidepo Valley, Murchison Falls, Lake Mburo as well as Queen Elizabeth National Parks.
They display sexual dimorphism with the males being longer and heavier than the females. A mature male vervet monkey will weigh from 4 to 8 kilograms but their average weight is 5.5 kilograms and are from 17 to 24 inches long from their head to the tails. Mature females weigh from 3.4 to 5.3 kilograms and average weight being 4.1 kilograms and are from 11.8 to 19.5 inches long.
They live in groups but when males reach sexual maturity, they migrate to an adjacent group and in most cases with a brother or any other companion for safety and protection against the aggression by some of the strong females and males they will find in the new group. This is opposite with the females who remain within their groups for life.
Their known predators are Baboons, Eagles, Leopards, Lions and pythons. When they meet the enemy, they use a different alarm so that the other members of the group can also respond in line with the sighted predator. Generally, the vervet monkeys use 30 alarm calls but the mothers are able to identify their offsprings by screaming only. One of the most interesting behavior you will notice about these primates is that the juvenile screaming creates an elicit reaction to all the mothers.
When it comes to reproduction, females show no external signs that they are in their menstrual period hence no clear social behavior of reproduction can be detected. However, it should be noted that they reproduce at anytime of the year after a gestation period of approximately 165 days, after which an infant (weighing between 300 and 400 grams) is born although there are also cases of twins (although very rare).
Besides calling Uganda home, they are found in other parts of East and Southern Africa including Ethiopia, South Sudan, South Africa and Somalia. Visit any of these African destinations and these primates will take your breath away.