What kinds of monkeys live in South Africa?
If you visit South Africa, it’s only natural to ask yourself the above question. I mean, who doesn’t want to see monkeys!?
Luckily, there are quite a few species you should be able to find. So, keep reading to learn how to identify each monkey, ape, and primate, and learn some fun and interesting facts. Pictures and range maps are also included!
4 monkey species that live in South Africa:
#1. Vervet Monkey
- Chlorocebus pygerythrus
Also known as the Vervet, Common Vervet, Desert Tumbuli, or Yellow Monkey.
- Adults are 42-60 cm (17-24 in) long with 49-75 cm (19-30 in) tails.
- Males are larger, and you can easily identify them by their bright blue scrotums.
- They have black faces. Their fur coats are shades of gray that grow brown towards the back.
Keep your food hidden! Vervet Monkeys are bold and frequently steal food from households.
These cheeky monkeys live in South Africa in woodlands, savannahs, and mountainous regions. Their behavior is incredibly similar to humans, with some individuals showing traits such as anxiety and alcoholism.
Vervet Monkeys spend as much time among the trees as they do on the ground. When foraging the forest floor, they gather in groups of 10-40 individuals. Then, after a long day, they climb back up to the highest branches to rest.
Note that these monkeys are highly territorial and will scream aggressively at any intruders! For example, if a Vervet spots a predator lurking around, it will bellow an alarm call to inform others of the danger.
#2. Blue Monkey
- Cercopithecus mitis
Also known as the Diademed Monkey.
- Adults are 50-65 cm (20-26 in) long.
- Look for a white patch of fur on their necks. They also have round, furry cheeks.
- Contrary to their name, Blue Monkeys have grayish or olive coats.
Look for Blue Monkeys in South Africa high among the tree canopy.
They prefer shaded areas with high humidity and nearby water sources. Blue Monkeys are occasional allies and share territory with Red-tailed Monkeys. On the other hand, they avoid Baboons and Chimpanzees, who sometimes prey on them.
Blue Monkeys function in groups of 10-15. An alpha male acts as the leader of several subgroups consisting of females and their children. Females can be aggressive towards one another, especially when defending their food.
Roughly half of their diets are fruits, but they also eat flowers, leaves, and slow-moving invertebrates. Blue Monkeys rarely leave the safety of treetops, so don’t expect to come across one at ground level. However, sometimes, they bask in the early morning sun from lower bare branches.
#3. Mohol Bushbaby
- Galago moholi
Also known as the Southern Lesser Galago.
- Adults are about 15 cm (6 in) long with a tail of 23 cm (9 in).
- They have notably large and rounded eyes. Their ears, hands, and feet are also proportionally large.
- Their wooly coats range from gray to brown. Some have stripes and markings on their bodies.
Mohol Bushbabies are some of the cutest primates in South Africa!
Don’t blink, or you’ll miss them! These fast little critters sprint and leap through the tangle of branches, using their long tails for balance.
What they lack in size, they make up for with an array of adaptive abilities. Mohol Bushbabies are equipped with large eyes to help them see in the dark of night. Also, their twitchy ears can detect the faintest sounds from the insects they feed on. Finally, their tongues are narrow enough to reach deep into cracks where bugs hide. These primates eat fruits, nuts, and tree sap if they can’t find prey.
- Check out our LIVE bird camera from South Africa HERE! At night it’s common to see Mohol Bushbabies visiting the feeder. 🙂
Interestingly, Mohol Bushbabies got their name because their cries sound like that of a human infant! Family units of 2-5 mark their territories with urine to keep outsiders from trespassing. Adult females and their children sleep together in tree hollows, while adult males sleep alone. They tend to bite and spit when threatened, so try not to startle them.
#4. Chacma Baboon
- Papio ursinus
Also known as the Cape Baboon.
- One of the longest monkeys. Adult bodies are 50 to 115 cm (20 to 45 in), and tails are 45 to 84 cm (18 to 33 in).
- They are also one of the heaviest monkeys. Adult males average 31.8 kg (70 lb). Females are considerably smaller.
- Generally dark gray or brown. There is a patch of rough hair on the nape of its neck.
- Males DO NOT have a mane, unlike baboon species that live farther north in Africa.
Chacma Baboons are the most common monkey in South Africa!
You can find them in a wide variety of habitats, including woodland, savanna, steppes, and sub deserts (arid habitats that have just enough rainfall to allow vegetation to grow). They are adaptable and live in both humid and dry environments.
It is rare to find only ONE Chacma Baboon, as this species is very social. They live in large troops that can number up to 100 individuals. Communication is done via facial expressions, vocalizations, body movements, and touch. Infanticide is more common among these primates than other baboon species, as new dominant males will kill other infants sired by the previous male.
Chacma Baboon Range Map
Leopards are the main predator of Chacma Baboons. One study showed that they made up 20% of leopard kills! African wild dogs, lions, Spotted hyenas, Nile crocodiles, and African rock pythons also consume these monkeys when given the chance. But male Chacma Baboons are pretty intimidating themselves with large and sharp canine teeth, and they are often able to drive away potential predators. Check out the video below to see what I’m talking about!
At this time, the population of these monkeys is not threatened. But as the human population continues to grow, conflicts with Chacma Baboons continue to increase. Some troops live in close proximity to people and are known to break into cars and homes or overturn garbage cans looking for food. The more these individuals get habituated to people, the more aggressive they become, which has led some frustrated residents to illegally poison and kill these monkeys.
The above video details the issue that Chacma Baboons can cause living nearby humans!
For more information about animals in South Africa, check out these guides:
- 16 COMMON Types of Snakes Found in South Africa
- 48 Amazing ANIMALS to see in South Africa! (ID guide w/ pics)
Which of these monkeys in South Africa is your favorite?
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