Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Vervet Voice November

Challenge for position of alpha female

Alpha female Juliet was originally partnered with alpha male Caesar, before the three troops were joined a few months ago in readiness for their release as a whole this November. Although Caesar lost his battle for dominance, Juliet was readily taken on by new alpha male Bagheera. However, often in vervet monkey troops, the male will take a second wife and in this instance it appears that Masuku has risen to the challenge.

One of the privileges of being an alpha female is having the right to remove food from the mouths of all others within the troop, generally with the exception of the alpha male.

Vervet monkeys

Juliet is heavily pregnant and it may be that she gives birth during release in just a few weeks time. It will be a strain for her to protect her baby at the same time as learning to adapt to her new life in the wild, where she must forage for her own food. But a natural birth in the wild will be a great experience for all members of the troop, all coming together to help out. There are several juvenile and subadult females who will all be more than willing to do the job.

In her quest for the role of assistant alpha female, Masuku can regularly be seen hot on Bagheera’s tail patrolling their territory together and, although not used to the attention, he doesn’t seem to mind. He mates freely with both his wives and whereas Juliet is very used to this behaviour from her time spent with Caesar, this is all completely new to the much younger and vastly more inexperienced Masuku.

Vervet voice

The first time she witnessed Bagheera mating with Juliet right next to her, her head dived straight to the ground as she looked underneath Juliet to see what on earth was going on. An intriguing sight to behold! One might assume this activity would be taken for granted in the primate world, but Masuku wanted to see exactly what there was to see. And the first couple of times Bagheera mated with Masuku, she’d look behind her, watching Bagheera with a look of alarm.

For now, the atmosphere within the troop is calm, despite this change to the hierarchy. Only time will tell if this can last and whether Juliet will allow Masuku to take her place as alpha female or if the two females can even live side by side with Bagheera as their joint claim.  With only three weeks left for them to remain at Munda Wanga before they’re loaded up onto the truck and transported away to their new lives in Kafue National Park, there is so much that can change in a seemingly stable troop of vervet monkeys.


Zoë Lapthorn
Project Manager

Zambia Primate Project

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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