THE SHY AND GENTLE SAMANGO MONKEYS OF THE NHAMACOA

Like all monkeys around the world, the Samangos are on the endangered list in South Africa.  This, of course, is because of human activity which has led to habitation loss and fragmentation of our valuable indigenous forests.  Sadly, these shy and gentle monkeys are also often killed for bush meat.

I’m not quite sure how many Samangos live in the Nhamacoa Forest but once, in 2009, our cook Douglas counted about 30 living around our dam.  Now, in 2016, they seem to have increased in number as they no longer keep to the dam but have spread themselves all over the place, even in the trees behind and in front of our house.  Fortunately, unlike our mischievous Vervets, the Samangos rarely leave the tree tops for the ground and so my vegetable garden is at least safe from them!

Samangos live until they are about 30 years old.  One male Samango usually has a harem of several females who normally produce young every 2 years.  The gestation period is 5 months.  As you can see from the photograph, they are handsome monkeys with jutting out eyebrows and black furry arms which make them look as if they are wearing long black elegant gloves.  They also have very long tails.

They make a variety of sounds, ranging from “Pyow!” to clicks, grrrrs and a “boom” sound, as well as a long staccato “ah ah ah ah ah ah ah!”

Their home range is about 17 hectares, so at the moment they still have enough space and enough to eat in the little Nhamacoa Forest.  Their diet consists of seeds, leaves, vines, insects, flowers and fruits.  At the end of the year when the mango trees are loaded down with fruit, they gorge themselves on mangos, quite often even before the mangos are ripe.

I often wonder what will happen to our Samangos, Vervets and Bush babies if their home in the Nhamacoa Forest was to be destroyed.  Without a home and shelter and without food, where would they go?  And how would they even know where to go? Would they try to scuttle, hearts beating with fear and panic, through fields to the next little spot of yet untouched forest, chased by ferocious dogs and killed by people?  Or would they just slowly die of hunger and become extinct like so many other animals in a world which humans are now over-populating?

Let us hope that, in our case, it never comes to that.

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