Tantalus or Vervet – or both?

Hi everyone,

As I’m starting to put together Alex Meyer and I’s trip report to Uganda, I’m wondering about vervet monkeys.

I see trip reports where both Vervet and Tantalus monkeys are mentioned. We saw what I would commonly call “vervet monkeys” at:

Entebbe Botanical Gardens

Outside Murchison Falls

On the way to Semliki NP from Toro-Semliki WR

in Kibale’s Bigodi Swamp

Queen Elizabeth national Park

{Bwindi ? – don’t remember 100%}

and Lake Mburu


Would it be possible to tell just based on location, which ones are vervets and which ones are Tantulus?

We did notice that in some places the hands and feet were black whereas in others they were gray, and the face isn’t always the same, but I’m not sure if that’s indicative. So before throwing rodents and a mongoose at you’all for help with identification – I figured I’d get this question out of the way 🙂


Thanks in advance!



  • samuel

    I always find it more difficult to only rely on the feet color to differentiate between vervet and tantalus and often prefer to look at the tail tip (black for vervet and white for tantalus)
    During our trip in Uganda and using both feet and tail tip coloration I can they say we saw:
    – Vervet in Lake Mburo, QENP and Semuliki
    – Tantalus in Ishasha only
    Hope this helps

  • Alex Schouten

    The black end of the tail (Vervet Monkey) versus the white/gray end of the tail (Tantalus Monkey) is an important difference between these species. In most of Uganda you will find the subspecies budgetti of the Tantalus Monkey. They have pretty dark hand and feet, but the end of the tail is gray and not black as with the Vervet Monkey.
    In Uganda the vervet monkey is only found in the southeastern part of the country. To make things more complicated: the Vervet Monkey hybridizes with the Tantalus Monkey in Uganda….. So, most of your sighthings in Uganda will be Tantalus monkey with the whitish/grayish end of the tail as the best fieldmark. I hope this helps a bit.
    Best regards, Alex

  • tomeslice

    I see. That’s what my guide told me, with the black tip of the tail or not.

    Ok – I’ll look into it.. it seems like “cheating” to add both species to the list, but I guess if science recognizes them as different species, and if we indeed saw both, then I guess I’ll mention it in the report 🙂

  • Charles Foley

    You need to embrace it Tomer. Nobody on the planet will help you inflate your mammal list quite like a primate taxonomist. We should all be salivating at the prospect of them splitting the Mitis (Blue monkey) complex into 50 new species. In fact I regard it as a dereliction of duty that they haven’t done so already….

    • tomeslice

      That’s true Charles…
      Speaking of which, vervet split or no split – we will have still seen 19-20 species of primates which is quite remarkable!
      Semliki NP is a must if you want to add another 3-4 primates that are not seen elsewhere in Uganda.

    • Vladimir Dinets

      Charles, that’s all great, but sooner or later science will prevail and at least a quarter of currently recognized primate species will be lumped back. Better to escape this horror by staying conservative now. There’s plenty of real species to spend time and money chasing, and many are way more charismatic than primates. I, for example, am currently on a quest to see all of the world’s voles (incl. lemmings) in the wild; have just 12 species left.

      • Mustela

        Hi. Do you know of any primatologist whose work isn’t buying into the PSC splitting trend? Or is it really all new studies conducted in primate taxonomy that biased nowadays? I’ve been trying to create a personal provisionally new world monkey species list, but I’m not sure how weak or strong the evidence is for some groups, as practically every major paper is written by a primatologist who advocates for the PSC.

  • Charles Foley

    Hi Vladimir, I did wonder if my Britishness would translate – but obviously not. My comment was meant to be tongue in cheek; I completely agree that the taxonomists have gone wild ‘creating’ new species, as witnessed by the 11 species of Klipspringer that suddenly materialised out of no-where. Fortunately the IUCN list is still relatively sane, and that’s what I follow.

  • James Anderson

    I checked in Primates volume of Mammals of The World, which is authoritative, but which simply states that tantalus populations may be growing. It seems to be an alternative, somewhat less popular terms for the vervet monkey.

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