Friends in high places: The vervet (Chlorocebus pygerythrus)/samango (Cercopithecus albogularis labiatus) relationship

Ficus eaten by samango monkey
Monday, 20 November 2017

While following up on the intriguing relationship between two species at one of our study sites – a matrix habitat where humans and nonhuman primates co-exist – we came across the vervets and samangos eating small yellowish, hairless, figs plucked off the branches of an evergreen Forest Fig (Ficus craterostoma – Ficus (figs) are known to make up a high proportion of the samango diet. 

20115A samango monkey reaches for a branch laden with tasty figs

SAMSTRIDEAn adult male samango heads towards the food source

samver5Two juveniles, a vervet and samango, sit under the strong presence of the Forest Fig

forestfigsamverHopefully, visits in the near future will offer better photographic opportunities so we can share more of this compelling glimpse into the lives of these two primate troops. Although the samangos and vervets were eating together in the Forest Fig shown above, most of the primates were hidden by foliage. 

When investigating the persistence of samango monkeys in fragmented mist-belt forests of the Midlands of Kwazulu-Natal, Mike Lawes concluded that “the monkeys poor dispersal and obvious area-dependent extirpation suggest that they exist in transient, non-equilibrium  (declining ) metapopulations”, (Lawes.M. et al. 1999. Patch Occupancy and Potential Metapopulation Dynamics of Three Forest Mammals in Fragmented Afromontane Forest in South Africa.)

Samango in Forest Fig

Given the fragile existence of the threatened samango monkey in the Midlands, our investigation seeks to find clarity; to what extent – if any – are samango monkeys in the Midlands joining forces with vervets to overcome current limitations placed on them as a result of fragmentation and destruction of their forest habitat?

(For information on the symbiotic relationship between bachelor male samangos and vervet troops, see  

Michael J Lawes, Peter E Mealin and Steven E Piper on Metapopulation Dynamics in Fragmented Afromontane Forest:


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