Samango Monkey Research Project – Update, August 2018


Dispersing Samango Males – Karkloof and Dargle

23rd July, 2018

Silence saturated the air after Lizzie and I left Mbona Private Nature Reserve’s ( tranquil, indigenous forest where we’d spent a few hours deep in the forest watching samango monkeys.

Turning off Karkloof Road, onto a hazy road, in the direction of Karkloof Canopy Tours ( ), we hoped to stumble on more primate pranks.

Like alien wattle invading indigenous forest, the melody of Country Roads Take Me Home abruptly entered my thoughts as I noticed the familiar form of a lone monkey clinging to a bare branch, midway up a tree, bordering a dusty track ahead surrounded by large tracts of flat modified land.

dispmalesam 23 june18 near KCT

Dispersing male samango – Karkloof

Mindful of the vulnerable life that lone, dispersing primates endure when crossing human populated areas, where hazards like cars, electric pylons, dogs and other risks alter their path, as they sometimes learn harsh life lessons for the first time without the protection of a troop, I swung the Kia in the direction of the monkey.

Were we looking at a samango or vervet?

If the primate in question was a forest specialist, albeit one we sometimes see on the ground, the habitat seemed slightly out of synch. Once we’d approached, the partially white tail, typical of subspecies (Cercopithecus albogularis labiatus) peeked out from behind the tree trunk, identifying the monkey as a samango.

Earler that month on the 10th June, along the D17 in Dargle, we’d come across a single male samango perched on a pine branch (pictured below), staring in the direction of a poultry farm in Dargle.



Dispersing male samango – Dargle Valley

A while later, the male descended then headed along the ground towards the poultry farm before making his way back to the safety of the Pine. Continue reading “Samango Monkey Research Project – Update, August 2018”


Breeding Season – It’s That Time of the Year

Breeding season: it’s that time of year again.

Samango Monkeys have a harem social structure, that is a single dominant male (there may be two adult males in the group) lives with adult females and their offspring. The social core is formed by related females, who will also defend their territory. The samango displays sexual dimorphism; adult males weigh around 9.5 kg while adult females weigh about 4.5 kg. Females give birth during the onset of the warm, rainy season. A single young is born after a gestation period of 140 days. Young are carried by their mothers for two to three months, and are finally weaned around the age of nine months. In Samango troops, oestrus is unsynchronised.

Samangos, Vervets and Bushbuck – Interspecies Relationships

A Day in the life of a Trail Camera – Video footage on one day, captured by one of our trail cameras in Dargle Valley, an area consisting of human-modified land and indigenous forest, shows a glimpse into the lives of the vervets, samangos and bushbuck that regularly use a path bordering a paddock and indigenous forest. What is particularly interesting is that the samango troop follow directly behind the vervets confirming our past observations that these two troops have a friendly and symbiotic alliance.




Do antelopes mimic monkeys?

Trail Camera Tales – Wildlife Sightings

19th May, 2018

Observing Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) in the company of baboons and monkeys is a relatively common sight in South Africa. It’s thought they have a symbiotic relationship, one that assists both species to outwit a lurking predator or make food more accessible.


bushbuck, vervet monkey

But how much do we know about their interactions? Continue reading “Do antelopes mimic monkeys?”

At the Edge of Forest – Samango Food Sources

A bank bordering indigenous forest and a paddock has proved to be a feeding site of this samango troop in Dargle. In the video below, captured by one of our trail cameras, an adult female and three juveniles feed on yellow flowers: Senecio harveianus  .


Continue reading “At the Edge of Forest – Samango Food Sources”

Reaching for the trees

It is 2018, the 4th of January. Myself and assistant DB are leopard-crawling through mud while clinging vines and thorn branches obstruct our mission: that being to locate the identity behind the primate “pyow” vocalizations at the site of the vervet monkey sleeping tree at 6.30 am.

 “If only we could move through the trees the way they do”, DB says looking up into densely packed branches that stretch over forty metres high.  


“If only I hadn’t evolved this deep into humanity and instead had those fabulous dexterous opposing toes and thumbs and dense protective hair,” I think privately. Imagine – if you can – how life would be had humans hybridized with chimps somewhere along our evolutionary branch and gone on to form a human species that would enable us to navigate the forest canopy today.

Everyone with European descent – including myself – has a small percentage of neanderthal in their DNA. Whether that small amount of “caveman” DNA has anything to do with our limited ability to fly through trees is debatable. Our arboreal habits apparently occurred long before we hybridized with Neanderthals. According to a science analysis of human wrist anatomy written in 2009, early humans spent a lot of time in trees.

 I look down at my wrists and hands. In this moment of time, this hypothesis seems appealing – they don’t look anything terrestrial-gorilla-ish.

The monkey troop we’ve been following have moved effortlessly ahead of us along the canopy of the forest while we struggle through branches looking for a familiar pathway. I’m reminded once again of the dependent relationship we primates have with the environment we live in and some of the questions raised by Richard Dawkins about the way we view the world

Carbon collapse in fragmented forests

 “It’s well known that big animals such as primates, large fruit-eating birds, elephants, and other seed-dispersing animals disappear in forests that have been fragmented or heavily hunted.

These animals often find the limited universe of a forest fragment too small for survival, or vanish when killed off by poachers armed with rifles and snares.”

Spider monkeys are essential seed dispersers

Spider monkeys are essential seed dispersers

Many of these vulnerable animals are vital dispersers for large-seeded trees.  Without the animals, the big seeds just accumulate at the base of their parent trees, where they are killed by natural enemies such as seed beetles or fungi. 

And large-seeded trees have big seeds for a good reason: when the seeds germinate, their seedlings need enough nutrients to survive for a long time — sometimes waiting many years for a treefall gap to occur, at which point the seedling has enough light to start growing into a tall tree.”   Read more