Walking with vervet monkeys

Here’s the scene: In lush contrast to the desert regions of Namibia, the Zambezi Region (Caprivi) is a tropical wetlands area.  Namushasha River Lodge is set on the banks of the Kwando river on the curve of an oxbow lake, where pods of hippos wallow in muddy grandeur.   It’s rich riverine ecology extends beyond the dense stands of Jackalberry and Mangosteen trees over extensive reedbeds to the distant game-spattered floodplains.

It’s bounded on all side by wild game parks and it’s up there in the rank of ‘coolness’ not just for its shady campsites but for it’s splendid setting and gorgeous lodge facilities, swimming pool and watering hole.

A popular wallowing spot for hippos.

A walk along the path at the edge of the river revealed an unexpected encounter (there are warning signs to watch out for crocodiles and hippos, though fortunately avoided).   The sound of leaves rustling gave them away……

Little faces peeked down at me as a gathering of vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus pygerythrus) came to assess this other primate intruder: friend or foe?  The alpha male bared his teeth, signalling his status.   Averting eye contact, i sat quietly wondering what would happen next.

Their curiosity won out and soon they had descended from their leafy domain to forage in the leaf litter below.  Keeping a discreet distance my presence appeared not to bother them and i was able to keenly observe their long limbed grace and agility.  Predominantly they’re found in savannah woodland, but here they’ve settled in this paradise alongside the fruit trees and breakfast options at the lodge.




34 thoughts on “Walking with vervet monkeys

  1. Lovely varied photos of these engaging creatures. I love it when vervets, which sadly are so often maligned, are appreciated, and nice to see them in more natural habitats. These vervets appear to be more slender and long-limped than the vervets we see here in KZN.

    1. Yes, thankfully in their natural habitat they appear to have a ‘calm’ disposition unlike their harassed urban edge cousins. They may be a sub-species at the southern edge of their distribution – the Malbrouck vervets. They range from DR Congo and down to northern Namibia.

      1. Interesting re the sub-species. I have found that even harassed urban vervets can settle down and be more relaxed and calm when in even a small “oasis” in a suburban garden where they can find some respite from hostility and from being chased.

    1. Wish i could find the right emoticon for this reply. These devilish little juveniles love to tussle and play … have to put some more shots up for you Susanne. Comical little creatures and i swear they have ulterior intent. Have watched them play hide and seek, and they can get into some pretty X-rated stuff…..

  2. These are great photos. I study primates at university so this entry really appealed to me. How lucky you are to observe these guys in the wild!

    1. Hi Sarebear, there’s certainly a wide field of subject matter. Are you studying any particular angle? We’re fortunate here in the Cape to have UCT’s in depth work on the baboons. Very interesting papers and studies. But these little vervets i reckon are as intelligent and enterprising as the baboons. I’m hooked on watching monkey interaction and social hierarchies….

      1. I am most interested in primate conservation and ethnoprimatology. I am about to graduate with my B.A. in anthropology and start grad school for conservation education.

      2. Interesting fields of study and overlap in subjects. Conservation education in our changing world so necessary. Good luck with your endeavours, Sarebear. It will be interesting to see where they lead you.

    1. Yes, it’s well situated in the transfontier conservation region where wildlife can freely cross international borders. The river systems attract in the game too. Aren’t they impishly cute little critters!

    1. Yes, it’s still ongoing even though it’s banned. Connected landowners have found the loopholes – particularly the hardwood trees, teak. Sad – be too late before they realise the damage.

    1. “Charismatic” is the word to describe them …. they have personality for sure and they’re wiley little creatures 🙂 They’re habituated to the camping and dining room settings and are up to a sneaky raid or too, but generally there is a good selection of natural foraging… including mushrooms.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Clare. i truly feel privileged to experience these encounters with these primates – triggers something of a familiar distant past! And their curiosity appears to mirror mine…

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