Last week the samangos went on a weekend jolly up to Diepkloof. This is the first time we have recorded our habituated samangos in Diepkloof since 2014, raising some interesting questions.
Of the two samango groups we follow, House group are notoriously predictable and rarely stray far from their sleep site at the Barn. It was quite a surprise then, when they decided to head towards Diepkloof last Friday, a good 2 km away from their usual hang-out.
Being primarily arboreal, samango monkeys are usually confined to tall, continuous forest habitats, although they are also able to utilise shorter, patchier forest fragments linking the taller forests. The path to Diepkloof therefore poses a potential predation risk, as the small forest corridor can be as short as 5 m tall and less than 100 m wide. As a result, the 60-70 samangos within the group got to know each other a little better, as they were crammed into this small fragmented corridor.
These risks were further amplified when the group made their way through the “patches” on Saturday (so called for its small and patchily distributed bush clumps). A habitat we typically see our baboons travel through, the samangos looked slightly out of place running from patch to patch and across open, exposed grasslands. A particular highlight was watching a group of 60+ samango monkeys making the nervy dash across an open rocky patch to make it to the taller forest only about 20 m away!
So why then would samango monkeys not only travel so far away from their typical home range, but also expose themselves to the increased risk of predation resulting from traveling through short, patchy forests?
Well… with breeding season well underway, both our groups now include multiple males. Typically during the breeding season, a male may come into the group and take with him a small subgroup of females who have taken a particular fancy to him. Perhaps the whole group has finally had enough of the resident male, Skeletor, and decided to follow a bachelor male up to his usual stomping ground up in Diepkloof.
Perhaps, a more likely suggestion, concerns food availability. Samangos usually think with their bellies, and as we’re approaching the depth of the South African winter (which still boasts days reaching the mid thirties mind…), food is starting to become scarce. If times are hard finding food within the normal home range, it may well be worth the group packing up for the weekend in search of food a little further for home.
Or, perhaps the samangos just fancied getting away for the weekend. Who doesn’t enjoy a little winter break? A couple of PhD students at the PPP are currently interested in how food availability and primate ranging, so watch this space for some more concrete answers!
Written by Ed Parker.