In the commercial sector, which basically covers the farming community, is where most vervet monkeys start their journey into human hands and end up in rehabilitation centres, all due to a mis-conception that they destroy crops. In this section we will try to explain why they don't, and why farmers should encourage vervets to visit there orchards.
Supporting your business - Protecting wildlife
Vervet monkeys, like humans, enjoy a variety of foods including insects, leaves, flowers, fruit, moulds, scale, fungus and eggs which all form a part of a vervets diet. Most orchards offer this variety in abundance and is therefore the main reason the vervets are there.
The accusation of damage, although unfounded, probably came more from the farmer seeing monkeys as wasteful. When times are hard and prices are low, seeing someone take a bite out of your fruit and throw it on the ground can be seen as damaging but probably more to your spirit than the actual crop. The reason they don't destroy crops will be outlined below.
- Are vervets causing the damage?
Vervet monkeys will tend not to eat the peels and skins of fruits. A tell tale sign that a vervet monkey has eaten your fruit is bite size pieces of skins, husks and pips of the fruit littering the ground below the tree. How to minimize this damage? Read on below...
- Is the destroyed fruit ripe?
If it is, then it could indeed be a vervet monkey. If not ripe, then a vervet monkey is probably not to blame. Monitor who is infact eating the crop.
- Are your crops being eaten during the night or day?
Vervets normally do not feed at night and are most often spotted foraging for food during the day. If it is indeed nocturnal animals damaging your crops, research possible ways of protecting them - an alternative to shooting is always available. We can offer advice on protection methods.
Set up a vervet feeding area on the edge of your fields where the monkeys can enjoy some old or infested ripened fruit, directing them away from any crops you would like to protect. Determine where the monkeys are sleeping at night and place the feeding area between their sleeping trees and your fields.
Reasons why vervets dont cause damage in commercial orchards:
Most of the commercial crop plants are picked while still green and artificially ripened, this goes for mango, avocado and banana. Macadamia nuts are too hard for Vervet Monkeys to bite through.
Evidence of damage was reported in mango. Just to clarify the damage, an occasional fruit was found in the orchards that had a vervet bite mark and the fruit was still green, giving rise to the accusation that they where testing for ripe fruit. What came out of this investigation was that the fruit had either sun damage or was stung by fruit fly causing a ripe spot, of which the vervet would bite out removing the fruit fly aswell.
Litchie are probably the only crop that could put claim to a certain amount of damage. However, considering the short picking period a guard could be employed to chase the monkeys away. A note on this is that the damage can't even be measured in a percentage so whether or not it is justifiable to call it damage is another question entirely. Another consideration is that due to their size and vervets liking variety, they can only eat so much of a certain item and not for very long.
A good example is to compare them to yourself, how many mangoes, bananas or litchies for that matter could you eat in one go? and for how many days in a row could you do that? Now look at a vervet monkey who is probably not even a 10th of our size, its just not physically possible for them to consume enough to even warrant calling it damage.
Why are vervets good for my orchards ?
Certain crops are wind pollinated and with the vervet jumping through the trees it causes pollen to be released and shaken into the air. They also help with selective pruning and picking, as they jump through the branches, the dead ones are broken off and any fruit that is set poorly also falls to the ground, causing the tree's energy to be directed to the healthy ones. Vervets also like scale and various insects so they keep these under control for the farmer.
Vervets play a vital roll in seed dispersal and are a very intricate part of the cycle that a lot of indigenous trees need to follow to germinate. They also help a lot of the smaller animals come across fruit and berries as they knock them out of trees and should probably be looked at as the gardeners of our indigenous trees and plants.