Mother-young interactions and suckling behaviour in Blue Monkeys, Cercopithecus mitis

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Animal Environment and Health

Abstract: The infant's first months are of vital importance for establishing relations with the mother as well as with other group members. It is also a period of learning. As a part of a larger study of the blue monkey, Cercopithecus mitis stuhlmanni, my study focuses on interactions between mother and offspring and suckling behaviour. The study site was located in the forest of Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp which is a tourist lodge outside the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Data collection took place in July 2006 in collaboration with two other Swedish students and with the help of Maasai field assistants. The monkeys were observed on foot between 8:00 and 18:00 with a total observation time of 330 hours evenly spread between the ten observation hours. We could not recognize the animals individually but estimated the number of focal animals as eight mothers with offspring. While suckling behaviour was recorded continuously with regard to time and duration, general behaviour, playing and grooming was recorded each minute. My results show that the mothers had feeding peaks in the early mornings, at midday and in late afternoon. This was in contrast to the offspring's feeding rhythm whose suckling meals took place mainly in the late morning and early afternoon. The time the offspring spent foraging solid food was close to zero. The offspring spent a third of their time carried by the mother and a quarter of their time playing. Most of the playing was lone play; social play with other group members did occur but was not as common. The offspring were dependent of the mothers however very active in exploring the environment which shows both in amount of time playing and moving. The individuals in the group spent about 10 % of their daylight hours grooming each other. In general these results coincide with those of others studying guenons. I suggest though that some of the behavioural differences of the group may be due to the focal animals being lactating. Furthermore I believe that the habitat they live in, i.e. close to humans and somewhat more protected, is reflected in their behaviour. This corresponds with the low levels of antagonism observed.

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