Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin

Vervet Monkey, Green Monkey, or Grivet

Chlorocebus aethiops


Vervet monkeys display sexual dimorphism (difference between male and female) which is seen in the presence of blue or greenish colored scrotum and surrounding area in the males. Males are also generally larger, weighing 3.9-8.0 kg while the females generally weigh 3.4-5.3 kg.  They have moderately long fur over most of the body with elongated side whiskers (usually a lighter color, white or pale yellow) that differ in length from individual to individual. The upperparts of the fur are a greenish color fur from black and yellow fur banding together. The skin of the abdomen is a bluish color while the skin of the face, hands and feet of this species is a sooty-black.


This species can be found from Senegal to Ethiopia and to South Africa. They can also be found in northeast Africa from the Red Sea (near Tokar), south as far as 5 degrees north (through Abysinia) and west to the eastern range of the Tantulus. Vervet monkeys can tolerate a wide range of habitats but prefer open areas of bush steppe country in tablelands of Southern Sudan and Abyssinia.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

Vervet monkeys are omnivorous; consuming mostly fruit but also insects, vegetable matter, and occasionally small mammals and birds. In the dry season vervet monkeys must drink water daily and will always be found near a water source. This species has cheek-pouches, while foraging they use these pouches to store food until it is eaten later.


Female vervet monkeys are cyclonically receptive to males and will only mate with a few males over a lifetime, but males mate with numerous females. Grooming is a common behavior for many primate species but the vervet monkeys also use it as a courtship strategy. Males have a highly contrasting color display as reproductive strategy known as the “red, white and blue display” (the red penis, blue or greenish skin on the scrotum and surrounding area and the surrounding white fur). Young are born with black fur and pink faces that gradually change to black when they reach adulthood at 12 weeks old. Females raise their young within social groups to share the care with other females.

Months and Times of Activity

This species is semi-terrestrial and semi-arboreal; they are equally comfortable on the ground and in the trees. During the day vervet monkeys are very social, traveling mostly on the ground in small groups and retreat to the trees to sleep at night. There are multiple males within these groups; this is very unusual for primate species. Groups are organized in a social hierarchy, the males of a higher social ranking place their tail in a stiff upright position when walking by lower ranking males. Daily activity patterns changes with season, time spent traveling, foraging, eating, sleeping and grooming change because of the change in resources. During the dry season more time is spent drinking, resting and grooming in the mornings, feeding and traveling to sleeping trees in the evenings. During the rainy season the mornings are spent traveling and feeding.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

•    Vervets are the most widespread of the African monkeys. They can even be found in sub-Saharan Africa.
•    Vervets are known to inhabit densely populated urban areas.
•    Children’s book featuring this animal; Kubuka & The Magic Calabash by Janet Keegans


Lang, Kristina C. "Vervet Chlorocebus." Primate Factsheets. Wisconsin Primate Research Center, 3 Jan. 2006. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. , 1999.
 Rochester, M. 1999. "Chlorocebus aethiops" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 04, 2014 at