Life as a bachelor male (Cercopithecus albogularis labiatus)


While I was driving along the main road in Dargle Valley, an adult male samango monkey ran across the road in front of my vehicle then disappeared into a Bluegum plantation. It is believed that samango troops do not wander far away from the forest patches they live in, but this doesn’t appear to be the case for the bachelor males who leave their natal troops around the age of six years.

Back in 2012, I’d carefully put together a troop of orphaned vervet monkeys that people had brought to me over the years and had released them into the indigenous forest around our home where they’d spent their early years semi-dependent on me for food and protection. While free-roaming in the forest, as an integral aspect of the rehabilitation process, they’d learned how to avoid predators and navigate conflict with competitors sharing their home range. The troop chose to remain within the borders of the property on which I lived making it relatively easy to follow their progress. At five years old, the first sub-adult male – named Kennedy – left the troop to find a new troop to move into. Two months later, he returned home, covered in deep wounds after one particularly difficult fight with the alpha male of his new group. Because so many baboons and monkeys that had been electrocuted, shot or run over by cars had been brought to me over the years, I was relieved to see Kennedy alive, albeit injured. 


Vervet, baboon and samango males all leave their birth troops to find a new troop to live with around the age of sexual maturity in order to ensure genetic mixing. While single male vervets and baboons spend about two months moving into a new group (and may be wrongly labeled as “rogue males”), the samango male can take a few years navigating this fragile period. Vervets and baboons have a multi-male, multi-female social system whereas the samango has one (or two) adult males living with a group of adult females and their offspring.  Small bachelor groups – that temporarily spend time with samango troops – also exist. Much of the danger facing the dispersing male is likely to be found in areas inhabited by humans where these males run the risk of being run over by cars, electrocuted on pylons or killed by dogs.

In the Dargle, bachelor samango males appear to be forming symbiotic relationships with vervet troops which offers them protection and social interaction.


An adult female vervet monkey forages closely to two male samangos – Dargle Valley

“To offset the possible negative consequences of the monkeys’ reliance on exotic seeds, including escalating conflict between monkeys and people in gardens, we suggest gradual removal of exotic plant species in the habitat and replacement with indigenous species as one mitigation strategy.” Reliance on Exotic Plants by Two Groups of Threatened Samango Monkeys – Cercopithecus albogularis labiatus –  at their Southern Range Limit – Wimberger et al.

Posted by Karin Saks

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