Vervet Monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops)

Vervet monkey, a light-grey guenon, readily identified by its black face and the male’s distinctive blue genitals. Associated with a wide variety of habitats, it is the only guenon (genus Cercopithecus of Old World monkeys) you’re likely to see outside of Uganda’s forests and it is thought to be the most numerous monkey species in the world.

Typically, the vervet monkey has a yellow to greenish-brown coat with white undersides and white fur on their brows and cheeks. They have bluish skin on their abdomens while their faces, hands and feet are all black-skinned.

Males of all species of vervets have bright blue scrotal areas contrasting with red penises. This striking coloration, when combined with the white fur of their undersides is highlighted in what is referred to as the “red, white, and blue display”.

Infant vervets are born with black natal coats and pink faces that gradually change to the adult coloration by 12 weeks of age.

All vervet males and females are sexually dimorphic and wild adult males weigh between 3.9 and 8.0 kg (8.60 and 17.6 lb), averaging 5.5 kg (12.1 lb), and measure between 420 and 600 mm (1.37 and 1.97 ft), averaging 490 mm (1.61 ft) from the top of the head to the base of the tail. Wild adult females weigh between 3.4 and 5.3 kg (7.50 and 11.7 lb) and average 4.1 kg (9.04 lb), and measure between 300 and 495 mm (11.8 in and 1.62 ft), averaging 426 mm (1.40 ft).

vervet monkey uganda

Vervet monkeys move quadrupedally (on all fours) and they are equally as comfortable on the ground as they are in the trees. They are semi-terrestrial and semi-arboreal, spending time feeding and traveling on the ground during the day and retreating to the trees to sleep at night. These monkeys have the characteristic cheek-pouches like other members of the super family Cercopithecoidea which allow them to forage and store food to be eaten later.

Lifespan in wild vervet monkey is difficult to characterize because of high rates of predation in the long-term study areas. One female was at least 13 years old when she died and females in captivity have lived this long. Between 11 and 12 years, serious health problems are seen in captive vervets and this is probably the upper limit of their lifespan (Fairbanks & McGuire 1986).

Species Found in Uganda

The vervet monkey is also known as the green, tantalus, savanna and grivet monkey. More than 20 races are recognized, and some authorities group these races into four distinct species.

At least four Vervet monkey races are found in Uganda:

  1.       the black-faced vervet (C. a. centralis),
  2.       Naivasha vervet (C. a. callidus),
  3.       Jebel Mara tantalus (C. a. marrensis) and
  4.       Stuhlmann’s green monkey (C. a. stuhlmanni).

Vervet monkeys are widespread and common in Uganda, even outside of national parks, but they are absent from forest interiors and Afro-alpine habitats.