During a break in the recent rainy weather vervet monkeys gathered on the roof of our carport and garage to rest, huddle, groom and play. The new babies take pride of place.
Even though they knew I was there, the barrier of glass in the window meant that the vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus pygerythrus) could tolerate me and the camera lens prying on them. Taking photos through the glass and using the zoom lens means that these are not the sharpest of photos, but the subjects are interesting and to my eye charming.
These two mothers (above), were each holding a baby close as they huddled together, apparently sharing some warmth on the cool morning. The tails of the babies are visible protruding from the cover of their mothers.
While they were huddling another monkey approached them and released the baby she was carrying enough for it to be able to peep over the roof in my direction. It seemed it was aware of my presence at the distant window.
Two adults are grooming one of the three very young babies. Adult and juvenile monkeys, especially females, often approach mothers with babies, sometimes grooming the mother so as to get a chance to touch or cuddle the baby.
Above another mother is being groomed by a younger monkey. She is totally relaxed enjoying the moment but still keeping gentle control of her baby who is also very relaxed.
After a while she stood up and slung her baby under her while the grooming session continued. Even at a young age baby vervets are able to cling onto their mothers’ fur with their hands and feet sometimes curving the tail around one of the mother’s hind legs and hanging on tight when their mother stands or moves around.
When the grooming session ended both monkeys turned their attention to the baby – and here they are both grooming the baby’s tail.
It is not only monkeys with babies that are groomed. Above a juvenile strikes a rather acrobatic pose while enjoying being groomed. Grooming among monkeys is as much about building and maintaining social relationships as it is about cleaning the fur or removing any parasites.
Above a group of juvenile age mates take a break from playing for a short grooming session.
And above a juvenile makes a ‘play face’ and invites other youngsters to another bout of playing on the roof.
The invitation to play was accepted with enthusiasm. Play involves frolicking about with bouts of chasing and wrestling. Sometimes playmates mouth each other and the mouth is often held open during play.
An adult (on the left) became briefly involved in the play while three others including a mother cuddling her baby watch from the side lines.
Play continued with the babe-in-arms taking an interest in watching proceedings. This particular mother spent a long time cuddling her baby.
It was very touching to see how this mother cuddled her baby so tenderly. In addition to expressing protective affection perhaps she was also trying to keep the baby warm on such a cool morning.
The bond between a vervet mother and an infant baby is very close. Sometimes a young female, likely an older sister or half-sister to the baby, will take turns looking after a young baby in a process known as allo-mothering. Not only does this assistance benefit the mother but it also gives the young non-mother experience in looking after and carrying infants, which will stand her in good stead when she is old enough to have a baby of her own when she is four or five years old.
It was lovely to see a monkey we have named Miss Tippy with her new baby. Miss Tippy has been with this troop for several years. We gave her the name because she carries her head tipped awkwardly to the side in a fixed position as if she has had a neck injury that has affected the mobility of her neck. She seems to be a fairly high-ranking female. Generally female monkeys stay with their natal group all their lives, but young males disperse from the troops usually with an age mate when they reach sexual maturity around the age of five years.
I was also pleased to see a young monkey we have named Bobtail on account of her missing tail. We first noticed the lack of tail when she was only a few months old over a year ago but could see no signs of recent injury. She has survived into her second year despite the lack of a tail that plays an important role in balance such as when a monkey is jumping, running or climbing.
We feel very privileged to be able to watch (albeit somewhat surreptitiously) the vervet monkeys going about their business – foraging, resting, playing and raising their babies – in our neighbourhood.
Ramulondi, Evah. 2014. Vervet Monkey. South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). https://www.sanbi.org/animal-of-the-week/vervet-monkey/; San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance 2021.Vervet Monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) Fact Sheet: Behavior & Ecology. https://ielc.libguides.com/sdzg/factsheets/vervet/behavior
Posted by Carol