After the Fire: Benefits of Reduced Ground Cover for Vervet Monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops)

Here we describe changes in ranging behavior and other activities of vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops) after a wildfire eliminated grass cover in a large area near the study group's home range. Soon after the fire, the vervets ranged farther away from tall trees that provide refuge from mammalian predators, and moved into the burned area where they had never been observed to go before the fire occurred. Visibility at vervet eye-level was 10 times farther in the burned area than in unburned areas. They traveled faster, and adult females spent more time feeding and less time scanning bipedally in the burned area than in the unburned area. The burned area's greater visibility may have lowered the animals' perceived risk of predation there, and may have provided them with an unusual opportunity to eat acacia ants.