In the last few days we have stepped up our data gathering on the potential Vervet/Sykes hybrid.
For the past three days the Sykes troop with which the hybrid associates has been located on the old nature trail at Leopard Beach Resort and Spa, close to the hotel’s southern boundary.
The hybrid can be differentiated from the rest of the troop by several factors. Its fur is much more Vervet-like in colour than that of the Sykes. The most obvious difference is that unlike Sykes monkeys but in common with Vervets it has blue balls. There is also the fact that it just looks a bit strange that makes it stand out. He is also currently carrying a few injuries which make him more readily identifiable. He has a cut on its left shoulder which he can often be seen trying to lick, as well as an older injury on his right front leg. The injury on his leg appears to be painful as he does not put his full weight on it and so limps along a little. A male Sykes in the troop also has a couple of recent injuries to its right shoulder and leg. Whether this is just a coincidence or the result of a fight between the two we don’t know.
The hybrid is almost always found on his own and often on the periphery of the troop. Although other Sykes do move relatively close to him, the closest recent social interaction that has been observed is when the hybrid moved up to and sat next to an adult female Sykes. However she walked away almost immediately when he did this.
Above: The hybrid at Leopard Beach
Due to the density of some of the low-level forest vegetation, maintaining visual contact and following the hybrid at times have proved to be challenging to say the least! Fortunately there appears to be a pattern with their movement over the last few days so it has often been possible to head them off at the pass, as it were. On a number of occasions the resort’s staff have also been very helpful in locating the hybrid when he has been out of sight.
Most of the observations recorded so far suggest that the main activities the hybrid engages in are grooming himself and resting. This may just be a result of the time the observations have been taken rather than due to other factors. Most primates indulge in the majority of their direct social interactions, such as grooming and playing, in the early morning and late afternoon. So far the recent observations have been taken from mid morning till about 1pm, this might explain the lack of social interactions between the hybrid and other members of the troop. Hopefully a couple of early morning starts will show if the hybrid does interact with any other monkeys.
The question is how did this potential hybrid arise? We think that the hybrid may be the result of greater interaction between the Vervets and Sykes caused by the continued reduction in the availability of suitable habitat for each troop. Further study is needed to reveal if this is indeed the case. For example, however, just yesterday the Sykes troop and a Vervet troop met up with each other on a grassy area in front of the resort’s Spa buildings. The two troops freely intermixed but only two cases of direct interaction were observed. A juvenile Vervet and a juvenile Sykes briefly approached each other and touched before walking away again and there was a small fight between a Vervet and Sykes. The Sykes troop is also often in proximity to a couple of different Colobus troops but no direct interaction has yet been seen.
At some stage we are planning to dart the hybrid so that we can take physical measurements and to obtain a DNA sample so that we can have a genetics test run. However because we are currently critically low on our resources required for darting, they are being reserved for welfare cases only at the moment.
Hope to give you more information soon!