We passed several troops of Vervet Monkeys sunning themselves at the side of the road as we drove to the Mountain Zebra National Park. They are interesting animals to watch as they walk along the strands of wire fences with ease or jump nimbly from tree to tree.
Their habitat includes both open savannah and acacia woodland near a source of water. Being omnivorous, Vervet Monkeys are a common sight over much of the Eastern Cape. On our early morning drives through the park we would frequently see several trees covered with them, all warming up in the sun after having endured a chilly night. In the veld they are known to eat berries, flowers, leaves and insects – they too were feasting on the termites.
The Vervet Monkeys display many endearing characteristics that, unfortunately, strike a chord with humans. I say ‘unfortunately’ for all too often visitors to game reserves and national parks succumb to the temptation to feed them because they find it entertaining to watch the interactions between the monkeys and the way they deal with the food given to them.
The ones living near the rest camp have become used to humans and habituated to eating ‘human’ food. They can thus be a real nuisance, especially soon after sunrise and in the late afternoon for this is when they move in to comb the area for titbits. Despite our presence, one managed to get inside our vehicle while we were unpacking and made off with a plastic bag of food. A group of people had just settled down to lunch in the popular picnic site when some Vervet Monkeys brazenly helped themselves to the buns that had just been placed on the table.
Signs in the rest camp urge people not to feed the monkeys and to keep the heavy wooden doors of the kitchen and laundry closed in order to keep the monkeys out. The toilets at the picnic site have been fitted with sliding glass doors for the same reason.
One dare not leave any food out or unattended and must keep tent and caravan doors closed at all times. Notices in the chalets warn visitors to do the same.