Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 617–628 | Cite as

A citizen science survey: perceptions and attitudes of urban residents towards vervet monkeys

  • Lindsay Patterson
  • Riddhika Kalle
  • Colleen Downs


A diversity of indigenous and alien wildlife persists in suburbia, and provides residents with the opportunity to experience wildlife. Suburban gardens may serve as refugia and foraging grounds for many primate species allowing them to populate within a largely urbanized landscape. However, this has led to the increasing human interactions with them, resulting in conflict. Our study investigated the perceptions of suburban residents towards urban vervet monkeys Cercopithecus aethiops pygerythrus within the Msunduzi and Ethekwini municipalities, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. We assessed how these related to the monkeys’ presence, activities and interactions in residential gardens, and the value of wildlife to residents. Assessment was conducted through an online questionnaire survey. General attitudes of residents to vervet monkeys were canvassed by assessing the respondents’ level of active engagement in wildlife watching within their properties. We analyzed 603 surveys submitted online using logistic regression and ordinal regression models. We ascertained that vervet monkeys were disliked by 29% of residents due to their aggressiveness, destructive behaviour in gardens and households, and perceived threat to native wildlife. Frequency and duration of foraging vervet monkeys in residents’ gardens was influenced by the presence of pet dogs, fruiting trees, tall trees (>2 m), ratio of indigenous to alien vegetation of gardens, residency type, and active and passive food provisioning. Despite conflict, the majority of respondents appreciated urban wildlife (67%) and actively engaged in wildlife watching (88%), emphasizing the importance of incorporating human dimension values into the management of urban biodiversity. Our study highlights the value of citizen science in providing mechanisms for identifying priority management and conservation efforts at the highly complex human-wildlife interface in an urbanized landscape.


Citizen science Human wildlife conflict Urban Vervet monkey Online wildlife survey 



We are grateful to the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) for research funding and to all the respondents. We thank the UKZN postgraduate students who assessed the survey questions. Further thanks go to A. Landman and C. Harries for their valued support in compiling the survey questionnaire and their assistance in data collection and analysis from the Survey Monkey online survey website. We are grateful to the constructive comments of the reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life SciencesUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalPietermaritzburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.School of Ecology and Environment StudiesNalanda UniversityBiharIndia

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