Eyebrows was rightfully named so due to his appearance of drawn on eyebrows in his early photo-ID photos. It wasn’t long however till his name was expanded to Eyebrows-the-King as he behaves as if he is reigning over the troop. We noticed back in March that most individuals were scared of Eyebrows and this was without the support of any females. He would spend his days surveying the troop and displacing any male he saw that came close.
However, a few weeks ago, after a week of malaria hiatus, I came back to the troop to find there had been a change. Eyebrows was sitting back, bruised face and clumps of hair missing. As we watched, we saw Augustine, who had been second highest rank, make his way to Eyebrows. For the first time ever, we heard Eyebrows submissively scream and move away. He was no longer the highest rank.
The next day there was another first, Eyebrows was observed in a tree with a higher ranked female, grooming. His lip smacks were so loud they were what first drew our attention to it. This time, when Augustine came close, Eyebrows stood up to him and the female backed him. It was clear he had learned that it was necessary to build up friendships within the group and this has continued ever since.
Eyebrows, who never interacted with anyone for months unless it was to display dominance or to mate, now plays with juveniles, sticks up for infants and grooms females. Not only is it amazing to watch him lie down on the lawn amongst infants playing and allow them to jump on him, but also even more amazing to know he figured out so quickly how to regain ranking over a much larger Augustine.
I have never known a male vervet to be so determined to be top dog and, I now have the utmost respect for him.
Photo credits: Olivia Sievert