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27 Jul, 2021
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monkey business

Some Monkey Business!!- Article by Gareth Jones

Some Monkey Business In The Nairobi National Park

Driving near large trees along the Athi river we saw a large troop of vervet monkeys. It was late afternoon with the sun shining, and many of them sat enjoying the warmth. With the engine switched off we relaxed and sat watching the monkeys go about their business. Naturally, there are interesting similarities to the way human beings behave, in their actions, and antics. Mothers sat protectively feeding their babies, others sat grooming each other seemingly looking for fleas, ticks, or mites. Youngsters played in the trees jumping from branch to branch, playing games like “catch me if you can”. Young males strutted their stuff trying to look dominant, only to be chased by the prime male.

The vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus), or simply vervet, is an Old World monkey of the family  Cercopithecidae native to Africa. The term ‘vervet’ is also used to refer to all the members of the genus Chlorocebus. The five distinct subspecies can be found mostly throughout Southern Africa, as well as some of the eastern countries, like Tanzania and Kenya.

While others were constantly on the look outstanding up on their back legs and seemingly looking around for threats like predators. Interestingly, I have had many predator sightings from watching alarmed monkeys, they become highly agitated and climb high into the trees and chatter loudly together. This is normally a giveaway sign that a big cat is on the move, either a leopard on the prowl or a lion nearby. Vervet monkeys are the smallest primates in the Nairobi National park and tend to live mostly in the large forested areas along streams and rivers. Olive baboons and Sykes Monkeys are also found in the park. So next time you see monkeys or baboons in the park, spend some time watching them, the children also really love doing that.

Late one afternoon, I drove very slowly through the Langata forest looking very carefully to find Suni antelope and was soon rewarded as a tiny antelope was visible in the undergrowth. As I was about to drive away a large family of over 20 Sykes monkeys appeared walking in the road and feeding from the fruits in the trees. They were very relaxed and not frightened by my appearance. They are also often seen in the surrounding suburbs around the Nairobi district, especially where there are large trees. They are wonderful to watch at times, however, they can be a bit of a nuisance when they enter homes to grab food like fruit. In the past, wildlife roamed freely in the Nairobi area as there was very little human development, however, in the last 50 years, the city has grown dramatically and most of the species now reside inside the Nairobi National Park ( gazetted 1946). However, due to the fact that Nairobi district has so many large trees, many monkey species have continued to move over this area. Monkeys are still very much part of Nairobi, and even if they are a nuisance at times, they still delight many people with their “monkey business”.

Sykes’ monkey (Cercopithecus albogularis), named after English naturalist Colonel William Henry Sykes (1790-1872), is also known as the white-throated monkey or Samango monkey, is found between Ethiopia and South Africa, including south and east Democratic Republic of Congo. It has been considered conspecific with the blue monkey. There are 12 subspecies of Sykes’ Monkey, in the Nairobi area Cercopithecus albogularis kolbi – (Mount Kenya Sykes’monkey) is found.

So next time you are in the park and you see monkeys, stop for a while and watch them as they go about their interesting “monkey business”. Some of their behaviour is at times almost humanlike, and that is perhaps very amusing to many people.

monkey business
Gareth Jones – Nairobi Park Diary – A passionate writer & photographer
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