The vervet monkey is one of the most endearing animals for guests to see on safari, but they are usually pests around lodges where they raid kitchens and food tables. Their black faces add to the endearment, whilst the characteristic blue scrotum of the male is the subject of much debate at first sight.
Vervet monkeys live in troops, the size depending on the availability of food. In the Okavango Delta where food is plentiful the troops can be as large as fifty individuals. They sleep in trees at night, coming down to feed around sunrise.
Grooming is an important part of the troop's life, with the dominant individuals getting more attention. Newborn babies cling to their mothers' stomachs for the first days after birth before they begin to move around and interact.
In many areas the vervet monkeys feed predominantly on flowers, fruits and leaves but they are considered an omnivorous species as they feed on birds, small mammals and insects in some areas. Personal observations include watching a vervet monkey catch and eat a tree squirrel and on another occasion eating a fully grown francolin.
The vervet monkeys are fiercely territorial and the fights between rival troops can be very violent. Personal observations include watching a territorial dispute where blood was spilled and one individual was almost killed by members of the rival troop.
The monkeys main predator in Botswana is the leopard, and the cacophony that follows a leopard after it has been spotted is deafening. Due to the fear the monkeys have for leopards a foolproof way of keeping monkeys from raiding food tables was to put up a picture of a leopard lounging on the table. Moving the picture occasionally helped to prevent the monkeys realising the deception.