Vervet Monkey

  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Chlorocebus pygerythrus

  • SWAHILI NAME: Tumbili

Vervet monkeys are highly adaptable primates that forage the grasslands and trees of the savanna during the day and sleep in trees at night. Some of their behavior is so similar to that of humans that geneticists study these monkeys to learn more about high blood pressure, anxiety, and even alcohol addiction, since vervet monkeys have been observed stealing and drinking alcoholic beverages!

Vervet Monkey

Vervet Monkey



Daily Rhythm




Life span

In the wild: Insufficient data
In captivity: 11 to 13 years

Conservation Status

Lower risk


Male: 9 to 18 lb (3.9 to 8.0 kg)
Female: 5.9 to 8.6 lb (2.7 to 3.9 kg)


Male: 19 in (49 cm) long, excluding tail
Female: 18 in (44.6 cm) long, excluding tail

Vervet Monkey

Tracks and Scat

Tracks: Elongated digits with a very stubby "thumb"
Scat: Irregularly shaped and very dark brown

Vervet Monkey tracks

Trivia Question

Where do vervet monkeys prefer to spend their day?


Vervets spend equal amounts of time on the ground and in trees. They have traits associated both with walking on the ground and moving through the trees.

Social Structure

Female vervet monkeys remain in the same group as their mothers, while males disperse to neighboring groups when they are five or six years old. Males must claim their dominance in the hierarchy through vocalizations and displays, while females assume a rank near that of their mothers.


Vervet monkeys have a sophisticated and diverse communication system, making at least 33 different vocalizations. Their warning calls are coded to identify specific predators, including leopards, pythons, and eagles.


Vervet monkeys start their day by foraging in their sleeping trees and then descend to the ground to eat shrubs and plants. They spend most of their day looking for food, though they retreat to the trees for a mid-day rest. At dusk, they return to their sleeping trees.


Vervet monkeys are a common species with an abundant and stable population. However, their patchy distribution makes them vulnerable to local extinctions.

Range & Habitat

Vervet monkeys are found from East Africa to southern Africa in savanna habitats close to water.

A group’s territory ranges from 12 to 255 acres (5 to 103 ha), depending on group size, density of food trees, and existence of neighboring groups. In Laikipia, vervet monkeys feed and sleep along river habitats dominated by yellow fever trees. They choose tall, large trees for sleeping and rotate between a few sleeping sites


The diet of vervet monkeys depends on the seasonal availability of food and includes leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, invertebrates, tree gum, woody shrubs, herbs, and grasses. Vervet monkeys also eat the eggs and young of birds. Cheek pouches allow vervets to store food so they can eat it later.


There is no courtship among vervet monkeys, and females mate with multiple males. Vervets are seasonal breeders, with babies being born after the rainy season when food is more abundant. Females can give birth every one to two years to one infant. The gestation period is 156 to 161 days, and females wean their young by 18 months of age. Mothers, or other adult females, may carry infants up to one year old.

Friends & Foes

Snakes, eagles, and leopards hunt vervet monkeys. Thanks to their sophisticated communication system, vervets know how to respond to a particular threat. For example, when a vervet makes a snake alarm, members of the group know to look down for the approaching predator. When they hear the eagle alarm call, they know to look to the sky and find cover.

Population in Kenya & Beyond

Because of habitat destruction and human encroachment, the total population of vervet monkeys is in decline, although specific numbers are unknown. In parts of Laikipia, their numbers have been greatly reduced, but all 11 groups living at Mpala are reported to be doing well.

Vervet Monkey

Did you know?

Unlike other small social primates, vervet monkeys typically do not form groups with other species of monkeys.