A Vervet child is born – and orphaned!

(As you read this posting know that it was compiled nearly two months ago, but for reasons I won’t bore you with was never posted. It has such interesting content that I decided to post it anyway!)

These past two-and-a-bit months since the last blog posting have been a real mixed bag. We are seriously into the baby season and sadly the number of babies, born and unborn, that we know of who have died has already has reached deep into the thirties, and this is still early days.

On the positive side though, we have managed to rescue seven babies alive, three of whom have been taken to our friends, James and Jan Hampton, who run an early care/rehabilitation centre in Byrne Valley. One of the babies taken by us to James and Jan, dehydrated and close to death when bought off a road-side “would-be-entrepreneur” for twenty rand by a caring Stanger resident, is now thriving with them after initially being in the temporary good care of Monkey Helpline surrogate mom, Jenny Morgans.

Babies four, five and seven are still in the care of Jenny. The first, Syd (after the Sloth in Ice Age 3), was handed in to a community worker in the southern Kwaulu-Natal (KZN) area between Harding and Kokstad after his mother was killed for bushmeat. The second, Turk, was picked up off the centre white line after he was flung from his mother’s body when she was struck and killed by a motor car near Izotsha, also in southern KZN. Only a few days old, he was very lucky to escape with his life and a few scratches and bruises. Jenny’s third baby is s tiny boy called Yoda whose mother was also killed by a motor car when he was only a day or two old . He is still very traumatized by the terrible ordeal of losing his mother and it is heart-breaking to watch him hold Jenny’s face in his tiny hands and stare deep into her eyes for ages trying to make sense of what has happened to him and why his real mom is no longer with him. But time and Jenny’s wonderful care will heal his sadness. Jenny’s foutth baby Vervet came to us from the Ashburton area close to Pietermaritzburg. Given the name Daisy by Carol, she had a broken left forearm and broken left wrist, and her left eye is missing that part of both upper and lower eyelids that contain the eyelashes. Vets who have looked at her eye are of the opinion that there is a possibility of eyelid reconstruction when she is older. The two breaks in her arm have healed, and though she has limited use of her left hand, it will steadily improve with time.

The next three babies were literally rescued on three consecutive days, and Uvongo-based surrogate mom, Sandy Burrell, who had already passed on one baby Verevt to the Hamptons because she thought she wouldn’t get any more babies, got three from the Monkey Helpline and one from the Durban North-based Burchal Early Care and Rehabilitation Centre within three days. And I hear that Sandy was just beginning to think of planning a Christmas holiday. Sorry for you, Sandy!

Now, as I sit here typing at nearly 2 in the morning, Carol lies asleep behind me with two six-week-old Vervet orphans, exhausted from crying for their moms all day, cuddled together for comfort and fast asleep on her chest. One spent last night alone in a tree in the rain and cold before she was rescued by a caring Forest Hills resident this morning and handed to us. The other was rescued by a varsity student from the jaws of her dogs. Wet and in shock, she was handed to us wrapped in newspaper to keep her warm. Who their surrogate moms will be is tomorrow’s problem.

And in our “high care” are two, two week old babies still with their mothers.

The first mom and baby came to us after being rescued from poachers by an Enforce security guard in Mt Moreland. He saw the poachers carrying the mom by her tail with her few-day-old baby still clinging to her. She had been in the snare long enough to lose the use of her legs and only now, two weeks later, is she starting to move around comfortably. We cannot release her when she recovers because we don’t know where they caught her. If we release her in the wrong territory, monkeys from the resident troop might find her and severely maul, even kill, her and the baby. So her future and that of her baby is either the lengthy three-year rehabilitation process whereby she is bonded into a troop with other randomly rescued Vervets and released into a suitable area, or sanctuary. The extent of her recovery will be the deciding factor.

The second mom and baby were trapped in Hammarsdale this (now yesterday) morning after it was noticed that the mom was very weak and unable to open her mouth to take in food. She had only one visible injury and that was far back on her right side near her leg. It was hard to imagine how this injury could be linked to her eating difficulties, but a veterinary check and an X-ray revealed all – a pellet had entered her body on the right side just in front of her leg, raced through her abdomen leaving violent destruction in its wake and then smashed into the chest where its lethal journey ended behind her left lung. Her pain must have been excruciating. The best veterinary care available couldn’t help her and another orphaned baby Vervet was left in our care!

Both babies are now flourishing and every time we see, safe and happy (relatively) with their human surrogate moms, we are grateful that these precious babies have the best care we can offer them.

Baby number six is a real heartbreak story that I will share with you in the next blog posting later today

Needless to say, this period has also been typically genocidal for the Vevets, with twelve dead over one particularly bloody three-day period. These included a beautiful juvenile Vervet rescued in the suburb of Shallcross. It was just about seven-thirty on a Sunday morning that we received a call from a man saying that a monkey was attacking his dog and threatening his family every time they wanted to go outside the house, and please could we come and catch it and take it away. Fearing that he would be driven to harming the monkey, but also curious as to what would keep the monkey there and make it so aggressive, I rushed to the address given. On arrival I saw that the dog that was being “attacked” by the monkey had thoughtfully been locked in the back yard so that I could deal with the monkey in the front yard. Just as well. It was a fearsome looking Pitbull who would have loved to start his Sunday morning chewing my leg off at the hip. The caller then directed me towards the location of the errant monkey. I nearly burst into laughter, then tears. There huddled on the dustbin was a very small, very unwell, very incapable of attacking a rag-doll, never mind a full grown Pitbull, year-old Vervet in genuine need of urgent veterinary attention. After the simplest of rescues and unsure as to the cause of the little creature’s dazed state I rushed him straight to our vet, Dr Kerry Easson. Initial inspection showed badly swollen palms and soles caused by the little monkey having walked onto a very hot surface. Closer inspection revealed a small cut above the right eye, and an X-ray exposed the truth – a pellet through both hemispheres of the brain, diagonally from right front to left back. One more innocent victim of those despicable sub-humans for whom the deliberate infliction of pain and suffering is the measure of their manhood. Let’s hope they burn in hell along with all the other tyrants who have terrorized innocents through the ages.

In the last posting I mentioned the male Vervet in Kloof with the open injury to his right ankle. Well, we did catch him a few days later and were amazed when veterinary inspection showed that although both the lower leg bones had been fractured a few centimeters above the ankle, the lower ends of the broken bones had already fused with the bone about two centimeters above the break. Our vet trimmed back the dead bone protruding through the skin, cleaned and sutured the wound and sent him home with us for some of Carol’s specialial tlc.

Came the day he was ready for release we took him back to the site of capture. There, sitting all over the roof tops and boundary walls about one hundred and fifty meters away was his whole troop. We placed his box in such a way as to give him sight of his troop just so that we could see his reaction to them and theirs’ to him prior to the planned release. Then we opened the box and out he strolled towards them, as relaxed as could be. Our excitement turned to anxiety when, on being noticed by his troop who literally poured off the roofs and walls in their zest to come and meet him, he turned and walked back towards us, then climbed nonchalantly up onto a boundary wall where he sat calmly with his back towards the approaching horde. Not knowing what to expect, Carol and I got ready to rush to his aid if need be. What happened though was awesomely beautiful. First, two adult males jumped up onto the wall, went right up to him and sniffed his face. He casually returned their greeting. Then one at a time most of the remaining troop members approached him and greeted him in the same way. Throughout the greeting process, soft grunting greeting sounds were exchanged and brief mouth-to-mouth touching occurred. Just as interesting was that no pregnant or infant-carrying females participated in this greeting ritual. After about thirty minutes the entire troop moved off along their foraging route. Two weeks later there was a sighting of him still limping along comfortably with his troop.

Another exciting rescue to rival the heart stopping rescue last year of an adult male Vervet on the fourteenth floor roof of a block of flats in Berea Road in Durban, was that two weeks ago of another adult male Vervet on the roof of a ten story building in Victoria Street in the heart of the city.

As with most monkeys rescued in the city centre, this one was in all likelihood an escapee from the muti or live bushmeat markets close by.

Carrying our trap and other required bits and pieces into a lift that looked as if it should have been condemned to the metal recycling yard fifty years ago, we got to the roof and once Carol had caught sight of the monkey and got his attention by showing him a banana, we set the trap and waited. But this was one monkey who was not going walk straight into the trap. He would come down and eat from Carol’s hand but refused to go into the trap for the banana she tossed in for him. It was obvious that my presence bothered him because he kept peeping around the corner to see where I was. So I left the trapping to Carol and made my way to ground zero to fetch a packet of monkey nuts which I thought we might need, and also to satisfy myself that our car was still where we left it parked in the very cosmopolitan and full of looking-for-a-Monkey Helpline-vehicle-to-steal characters.

Satisfied that our car with all its bits and pieces were still where we had left it, and armed with the monkey nuts that would surely lure the monkey into the trap in no time at all, I again braved the antique elevator to the top of the building. Excited children and a smug Carol greeted me and I knew that my monkey nuts would not be needed. In no time we transferred the monkey to a transport box and less than half an hour later released him into a very monkey friendly semi-urban area adjacent to a large, monkey paradise conservation area.
Watching him taking in his new surroundings we could not help but wonder what he must have been thinking to have suddenly arrived there after having spent the previous days dodging traffic and hordes of shoppers and jumping from one tall building to the next in an environment so alien to his nature! We can only presume that he felt relieved, but our feelings of joy and satisfaction were very obvious!