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?Vervet monkey[1]
Conservation status: Least concern[2]
Vervet Monkey at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Vervet Monkey at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family: Cercopithecidae
Genus: Chlorocebus
Species: C. pygerythrus
Binomial name
Chlorocebus pygerythrus
F. Cuvier, 1821
Vervet Monkey range
Vervet Monkey range

The vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus), or simply vervet, is an Old World monkey of the family Cercopithecidae native to Africa. The term "vervet" is also used to refer to all the members of the genus Chlorocebus.

Taxonomic classification

The vervet monkey was previously classified as Cercopithecus aethiops. The vervet and malbrouck have often been considered conspecific, or as subspecies of the widespread grivet.[3]

There are five distinct subspecies of vervet monkey:[2]

  • Chlorocebus pygerythrus excubitor
  • Chlorocebus pygerythrus hilgerti from southern Kenya[4]
  • Chlorocebus pygerythrus nesiotes
  • Chlorocebus pygerythrus pygerythrus from South Africa, Botswana,[4][5] Lesotho and Swaziland[5]
  • Chlorocebus pygerythrus rufoviridis from Mozambique[4] and Uganda[6] has a distinctly reddish coloured back which is darker towards the base of the tail.[7]

Physical description

File:Face of adult male vervet monkey.jpg

Adult male vervet monkey in South Africa

The vervet monkey has a black face with a white fringe of hair, while the overall body colour is mostly grizzled-grey.[8] The males of all species have a pale blue scrotum and a red penis.[9] The species exhibits sexual dimorphism, the males are larger in weight and body length. Adult males weigh between 3.9 and 8.0kg, averaging 5.5kg, and have a body length between 420 and 600mm, averaging 490mm from the top of the head to the base of the tail. Adult females weigh between 3.4 and 5.3kg and average 4.1kg, and measure between 300 and 495mm, averaging 426 mm.[7][10]


File:Vervets eating seeds Amanzimtoti.JPG

A troop of Vervet Monkeys in South Africa feeding on maize and other seeds

Social structure

The vervet monkey is diurnal and social; living in groups of up to 72.[11] There is a clear order of dominance among individuals within the group.

Alarm calls

The vervet monkey uses different calls upon detecting different types of predators, including leopards, snakes and eagles. Infants appear to have an innate tendency to make these alarm calls, and adult monkeys seem to give positive reinforcement when their young make the right call, by repeating the alarm. Mothers have been reported to punish young giving the wrong call.[12]


File:Vervet Monkey Amanzimtoti.JPG

Young vervet Monkey in South Africa eating fruits of Harpephyllum caffrum

The vervet monkey eats a wide range of fruits, figs, leaves, seeds and flowers. It also eats birds' eggs and young chicks, and insects (grasshoppers and termites). In human inhabited environments it will eat bread and various crops; especially maize.

A list of some natural food plants and part of the plant eaten, in South Africa:[7][13] Template:Colbegin

  • Acacia erioloba - seeds and pods
  • Aloe spp - nectar (flowers)
  • Celtis africana - fruit
  • Colophospermum mopane - seeds
  • Deinbollia oblongifolia - fruit
  • Euphorbia ingens - fruit
  • Euphorbia tirucalli - fruit
  • Ficus abutifolia - figs
  • Ficus sur - figs
  • Ficus sycomorus - figs
  • Grewia caffra - fruit
  • Harpephyllum caffrum - fruit
  • Hyphaene coriacea - fruit
  • Phoenix reclinata - fruit
  • Protorhus longifolia - fruit
  • Rhus chirindensis - fruit
  • Sclerocarya birrea - fruit
  • Strelitzia nicolai - soft parts of the flowers
  • Ximenia caffra - fruit
  • Ziziphus mucronata - fruit


Distribution and habitat

The vervet monkey ranges throughout much of Southern and East Africa, being found from Ethiopia, Somalia and extreme southern Sudan, to South Africa. It is not found west of the East African Rift or the Luangwa River,[1] where it is replaced by the closely related malbrouck (C. cynosuros). The vervet monkey inhabits savanna, riverine woodland, coastal forest and mountains up to 4000 m (13,100 ft). They are adaptable and able to persist in secondary and/or highly fragmented vegetation, including cultivated areas, and sometimes are found living in both rural and urban environments.[2]

Introduced vervets also occur in Barbados, Saint Kitts, and Nevis. Dania Beach, Florida is also home to about 20 vervets. [14]

Conservation status

File:Chlorocebus pygerythrus00.jpg

An infant Vervet Monkey, South Africa

In spite of low predator populations in many areas where human development has encroached on wild territories, this species is killed by electricity pylons, vehicles, dogs, pellet guns, poison, and bullets and is trapped for traditional medicine, bush meat, and for biomedical research.[15] The vervet monkey has a complex and fragile social system, its persecution is thought to have affected troop structures and diminishing numbers.

Multiple organisations are involved in vervet monkey conservation.

In ancient history

This species was known in ancient Egypt including the Red Sea Mountains and the Nile Valley.[16] From fresco artworks found in Akrotiri on the Mediterranean island of Santorini there is evidence that the vervet monkey was known to the inhabitants of this settlement around 2000 BC; this fact is most noted for evidence of early contact between Egypt and Akrotiri.[17]



  1. 1.0 1.1 Groves, Colin (16 November 2005). Wilson, D. E., and Reeder, D. M. (eds) Mammal Species of the World, 3rd edition, 159, Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-801-88221-4.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Template:IUCN2010
  3. Kingdon, J. (1997). The Kingdom Guide to African Mammals, Academic Press Limited, London.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Biodiversity occurrence data provided by: Field Museum of Natural History, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of Washington Burke Museum, and University of Turku (Accessed through GBIF Data Portal,, 2010-06-18)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Cillie', G.E.B. (1992). Pocket Guide to Southern African Mammals. ISBN 0-627-01686-3.
  6. (Isbell & Enstam under review)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Skinner, J.D. & Smithers, R.H.N. (1990). The mammals of the southern African subregion, 2nd, 771, Pretoria (South Africa): University of Pretoria.
  8. Stuart C. and Stuart T. (1997). Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa. ISBN 1-86825-757-6
  9. Fedigan L, Fedigan LM. (1988). Cercopithecus aethiops: a review of field studies., 389–411, Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press.
  10. Napier, P.H. (editor) (1981). "Part II: Family Cercopithecidae, Subfamily Cercopithecinae" Catalogue of primates in the British Museum (Natural History) and elsewhere in the British Isles, 203, London: British Museum (Natural History).
  11. Pasternak G. et al., (2011). Population structure, habitat use and diet in a southern, semi desert vervet monkey. 34th meeting of the American Society of Primatologists
  12. Seyfarth, R. M., Cheney, D. L. and Marler, P. 1980. “Monkey responses to three different alarm calls: evidence of predator classification and semantic communication.” Science 210: 801-803
  13. Pooley, E. (1993). The Complete Field Guide to Trees of Natal, Zululand and Transkei. ISBN 0-620-17697-0.
  14. The Importance of the Vervet (African Green Monkey) as a Biomedical Model.
  15. includeonly>Foggo, Daniel. "Germ warfare fear over African monkeys taken to Iran", The Times, 2008-07-06. Retrieved on 2010-03-27.
  16. Moeyersons, J., Vermeersch, P. M., Beeckman, H. & Van Peer, P. (1999). Holocene environmental changes in the Gebel Umm Hammad, Eastern Desert, Egypt: Dry cave deposits and their palaeoenvironmental significance during the last 115 ka, Sodmein Cave, Red Sea Mountains, Egypt. Geomorphology 26 (4): 297–312.
  17. Michael Hogan, C.. Akrotiri. Modern Antiquarian. URL accessed on 2008-07-13.

External links

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