About Vervet Monkeys

Vervets are indigenous to South Africa and are fairly common throughout the area. They have a strict hierarchy system with an alpha female as their leader. The females stay with the troop for life and never leave. The males are ousted from the troop after about 4 to 5 years to prevent inbreeding. Depending on the size of the troop and number of adult males within it, there will be an alpha male, his lieutenants, a scout and someone to bring up the rear. Generally troop sizes have shrunk in urban areas and many troops only have 2 adult males to protect them.


There are many myths about vervets but these are the facts. They are not carriers of rabies. They can however contract the disease with the same chance as any human but there has never been a report of any monkey with rabies in the wild or urban areas in South Africa.This can be verified by the state vet. The females have a gestation period of approximately 6 months and only fall pregnant once a year. They usually give birth in summer (between November and January) although early and late babies do occur. There are very rare cases of twins being born and in most cases one of the babies will not survive. With the full support of the troop some super moms do manage to pull it off. Vervets are highly bonded with their young and have been known to carry their dead baby until most of it has decomposed. They are very loving creatures and even have certain communication noises to show affection. Vervet babies are fully weaned at about 6 months old but will still sleep cuddled with their mom at night. When the next baby is born, the now one year old, will be fully independent but will still have a close bond with its mother. The new baby’s older siblings will play with and babysit their new brother or sister. They become adults at four years old although some females have been known to fall pregnant at the age of three. A vervet monkey’s life span is around 24 years of age. In captivity they can live longer but in urban areas they normally die much younger due to stress, poor diet and the risks from humans. They suffer many of the the same diseases as humans do and urban vervets are known to get diabetes from having a bad diet due to the lack of natural healthy foods.


Another myth is that vervets are breeding out of control. Statistically, only one in four babies will survive to adulthood. Troop sizes are averaging half what they would be in their natural environment. It is due to man’s “development” that they are becoming more visible. As their habitat is destroyed for urbanization and new developments, they are forced to move into the open in search of food and somewhere to sleep and this is why some people think they are breeding more.


What most people don’t know is that not only do the males have blue testicles but most of the skin on vervet monkeys is blue. Vervets have similar features to humans and share much of the same DNA with us. Vervets groom regularly to keep clean. The grooming also serves as a bonding and social activity. In fact vervets are extremely clean and it would be very rare to find any fleas or ticks on them. They also do not like getting their hands dirty or touching sticky foods. A vervet’s tail is not a fifth limb and cannot be used to swing from branches. It is used for communication and balance.



Vervets are more talk than action and will very rarely bite unless directly threatened and cornered. The best way to keep from aggressive interactions is to watch from afar. If a vervet does approach you aggressively, stand your ground and do not run away as this may cause them to chase you. The best option is to pick up something, such as a stick, to scare them off. If you have a jacket, wave it in front of you and they will back away. Do not attempt to hit them with something as this is immoral and will only serve to provoke them further. If they are showing aggression there will be a reason for it. Unbeknownst to you, there may be a baby nearby or an injured monkey. If you need to walk passed a group of monkeys, walk slowly and calmly around them and they will move out of your way. If you show aggression or scream there is more likely to be some aggression shown to you as the monkeys will feel threatened.

Having vervets steal out your kitchens? 

Vervets do not mean to steal. They do not understand the concept of stealing. As with any animal, they see food and it is there to be eaten. Try not to leave food visible from your windows and wherever possible keep food in cupboards. Monkeys are opportunistic and if they see food they will try to take it. There is no malice intended, they are merely doing what is natural to them. Please take into consideration their declining habitat, food and water resources, due to man’s encroachment. They are merely trying to survive. They are highly intelligent and adaptable animals which is why they have managed to survive thus far. If you want to keep them away from your house the best option is to spray them with water as this will deter them from your property. They have set foraging routes so if they pass through your property, your house would have been built along their route.

Monkeys sleeping at your house? 

As mentioned earlier, female monkeys do not ever leave their natal troop. They do not leave their territory either. Only the male monkeys disperse. Monkeys have one home which consists of a tree or group of trees near each other, If they are suddenly sleeping at your house it could be that their home trees have been cut down or development has chased them from their home. With ever increasing development, troops are being forced from their homes. Perhaps a larger troop has been forced into a smaller troop’s area causing the smaller troop to now find somewhere else to sleep. They will always try to stay as close to their original home as possible as that is all they know. Imagine how devastating and frightening it must be for them to arrive home in the evening and find their home gone.

I want to feed them.. 

If you live in an urban area with limited food resources for them, feeding may actually improve their behaviour. If they have sufficient food available to them they are less likely to go into people’s homes. They will not have the need to “steal” food and put themselves at risk.

We do not suggest feeding them by hand as they will associate food with people and cause them to lessen their fear of humans. This will put them more at risk from people wishing to harm them. Monkeys do not like approaching people. It makes them nervous so your monkeys would be a lot happier if you didn’t hand feed them and so would your neighbours.

The best option is a feeding station situated away from your house and that of your neighbours. Place the food before they arrive so they do not associate the food with you. Try to place the food in separate piles behind bushes and rocks if possible. Due to their hierarchy system, if the food is in one pile, only the higher ranking monkeys will get to eat. The lower ranking monkeys will get frustrated and bored waiting and may venture into nearby properties in search of food. The ideal feeding station would be a platform situated in a tree off the ground. This keeps it more natural and safer for them

We also suggest you leave a bowl of clean water somewhere safe for them to reach.

You can now sit and enjoy watching them eat and play.


If you live next to bush with enough natural food for the monkeys, we discourage any feeding at all. This will only urbanise monkeys that don’t need the food, and put them at risk. 

If you have any further questions feel free to contact us.


Image description
Image description