Humans pose the biggest threat
to the vervet monkey’s survival

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Vervet Monkey

Conservation Status:

Least Threatened

  • Troops can include 50 individuals
  • There are 5 subspecies of vervet
  • Live in areas up to 13K feet in altitude

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Cercopithecus aethiops


7 to 17 lb.


18 to 26 in.

Life span

Up to 24 years in captivity


Woodland, savanna, high bush




5.5 months


Leopards, eagles


Where do vervet monkeys live?

In East Africa, vervet monkeys can live in mountain areas up to about 13,000 feet, but they do not inhabit rain forests or deserts. Their preferred habitat is acacia woodland along streams, rivers, and lakes. 


Tags: East Africa View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What is a vervet monkey?

The vervet is a small, black-faced monkey, common to East Africa.There are several subspecies of vervet monkeys, but, generally, the body is a greenish-olive or silvery-gray. The face, ears, hands, feet, and tip of the tail are black, but a conspicuous white band on the forehead blends in with the short whiskers. The males are slightly larger than the females and easily recognized by a turquoise-blue scrotum and red penis. The vervet is classified as a medium- to large-sized monkey. Its tail is usually held up, with the tip curving downward, and its arms and legs are approximately equal lengths.

Behavior & Diet

Vervet monkeys enjoy a mostly vegetarian diet.

Leaves and young shoots are most important in the vervet diet, but bark, flowers, fruit, bulbs, roots, and grass seeds are also consumed. Their mainly vegetarian diet is supplemented with insects, grubs, eggs, baby birds, and sometimes rodents and hares. Vervets rarely drink water.

They adhere to a strict hierarchy.

Vervet society is built on complex but stable social groups (called troops) of 10 to 50 individuals—mainly adult females and their immature offspring. There is a strict social hierarchy among troop members. Males transfer troops at least once in their lifetime, beginning at puberty. This is a dangerous process, not only because of the predators they may encounter in transit, but also because troops dislike immigrants.

The hierarchical system controls feeding, mating, fighting, friendships, survival, and even grooming—an important part of the vervet’s life. They spend several hours each day removing parasites, dirt, and other materials from one another’s fur. In the hierarchy, dominant individuals receive the most grooming.

Infants are cherished in vervet society.

The newborn has black hair and a pink face, and it takes three or four months before it acquires adult coloration. The infant spends the first week of life clinging to its mother's stomach. After about the third week, it begins to move about by itself and attempts to play with other young monkeys. Infants are of great interest to the other monkeys in the troop; subadult females do everything possible to be allowed to groom or hold a new infant. Researchers report that usually a female's close family members will have the most unrestricted access to the babies. As the infants grow, they play not only with monkeys, but also with other young animals.

  • Vervet Monkey Billy Dodson
  • Vervet Monkey Billy Dodson
  • Vervet Monkey Billy Dodson
  • Vervet Monkey Billy Dodson

Vervet monkeys are sometimes viewed as pests.

Vervets living near areas inhabited by people can become pests, stealing food and other items and raiding crops. This leads to a heavy annual slaughter by poison, traps, and guns.

They have become valuable to research.

In recent years, vervet monkeys have been considered a valuable research animal, making live trapping prevalent as well.


Our solutions to protecting the vervet monkey:

  • Foster symbiosis between wildlife and people.

    African Wildlife Foundation works with communities living in close proximity to wildlife to incentivize conservation. In exchange for refraining from retaliatory killing or hunting for bushmeat, communities receive training in sustainable, and more productive, agriculture techniques that lead to enhanced food and economic security.

  • Tap into education.

    Conservation schools are another way that we are protecting wildlife and assisting communities. Conservation schools allow AWF to build outstanding schools in rural areas with the agreement that the people living in the community will set aside land for wildlife to live undisturbed. Conservation is also built into the school’s curriculum, creating a new generation of people informed on, and committed to conservation. 


Will you show vervet monkeys your support?

With your help, AWF can continue working on critical programs like providing training for sustainable agriculture and building conservation schools that foster a love for wildlife and assist the communities living with wildlife in their backyards. Donate for a cause that will help with wildlife conservation and ensure the vervet monkey does not become an endangered species. 

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