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Vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) alarm calls to leopards (Panthera pardus) function as a predator deterrent

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Behavioural predator–prey interactions are difficult to study, especially when predators avoid humans. To gain greater understanding of their dynamism, we conducted a 14-month field study in which we minimized human presence by employing acoustic recorders and camera traps, along with GPS collars deployed on vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) and leopards (Panthera pardus) in Laikipia, Kenya. Recordings at the vervets’ sleeping site revealed that they gave ‘leopard’ alarm calls most frequently near dusk and dawn, whereas photographs showed that leopards approached vervets more closely at night, when the monkeys alarm-called less often. GPS data showed that after vervets alarm-called, leopards within 200 m quickly moved away, changing direction, but when vervets did not alarm-call, leopards continued moving forward. These results reveal that vervets’ leopard alarm calls function as a predator deterrent in addition to a conspecific warning call.


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