Another day, another monkey death!

The posting below is an article written this week for the community newspaper, Northglen News.

“Durban North is once again the scene of a cowardly monkey shooting”, says Monkey Helpline rescuer, Steve Smit. “In spite of the exposure that recent monkey shootings in Durban North have had in the local community newspaper, the Northglen News, a stunning adult male Vervet Monkey was killed by two pellets shot into his chest. The first pellet must have incapacitated him immediately because the shooter was able to fire a second pellet into him. He fell into the neighbour’s Danville Road garden and died a short while later.”

“The monkey’s body was collected by a Monkey Helpline supporter who also lives in Danville Road, and taken to Dr Kerry Easson at Riverside Veterinary Clinic for a post mortem. She was able to ascertain that one of the pellets had passed through a number of vital organs, including one lung, and finally lodged in the monkey’s heart”, said Smit. “Dr Easson told me that the monkey had died almost instantly from massive bleeding into the chest cavity.”

“It concerns us that this monkey was shot just a stone’s throw away from where the previously reported monkey was shot in James Place, but it was definitely a different shooter. We can say this with confidence because we have received some promising leads regarding the James Place shooter, and we also know that the person who shot this adult male lives directly behind the Danville Road residence where the monkey died. In both cases we are consulting legal counsel with a view to laying charges with the South African Police Services.”

Smit said that no person with even a smidgen of moral fiber in their body would shoot a monkey with a pellet gun. “It is without doubt a cruel and cowardly thing to do and people who would do this to a monkey would have no hesitation about shooting a neighbor’s cat or dog, or any bird or mongoose who ventured into, or close to, their property. This is clearly shown by the coward who shot the monkey who died in the Danville Road garden.”
Smit has appealed to Durban North residents to report anyone they know to be using a pellet gun to either shoot or frighten away monkeys, birds or other animals. “In terms of the Firearm Control Act it is an offence to discharge a pellet gun in a built up area, or anywhere there is a risk of injury or damage to a person or property. The only way we can stop these unjustifiable monkey shootings is for all responsible people to support our campaign on the Causes website, . Join this Cause and you will help us destroy the scourge of pellet gun violence against innocent animals!”


PS. Tomorrow’s posting will deal with a small, ten week-old Vervet girl we were called out to rescue this morning in Hillcrest. We were told she had injuries to both an arm and a leg and was just limping along all on her own, not another monkey in sight. Now, any time a monkey this small has been left behind on her own you can be sure her mommy is dead. No mother monkey will leave her baby to fend for herself like this unless that mother is dead, and no baby monkey leaves her mother and goes off on her own unless her mother is dead. Even if her mother is incapacitated by injury or illness the baby will stay with her!

We managed to catch this baby, saw the infected injuries on her arm and leg and took her for veterinary treatment. Under sedation, closer inspection revealed a suspicious looking injury to the right side of her lower abdomen, so an x-ray was taken, and sure enough, lodged in her abdomen was a lead pellet. And to cap it all, another pellet was lodged in her left thigh. Yes, hard as it is to believe, there lives in Hillcrest, a human being of such low moral fiber, such cowardly dispositon, that he or she could see a tiny baby monkey, take aim at her with a pellet gun, and then shoot, not one, but two pellets into that little body!

If there is one single incident that could encapsulate the entire case against random, uncontrolled ownership of airguns (pellet guns), it must be this one.

In the next post you will read about the courage of little Ginger and how she is fighting to survive this despicable attack and the loss of her mother – and why we named her Ginger!

Vervet monkeys and garden birds

Did a talk about monkeys in the Port Edward library hall on Thursday last week, and when it came to audience comment and question time, sure enough the same old cliches about the destructive nature of monkeys were dredged up. As they they say, “nothing new under the sun”!

Anyway, the one that I find exceptionally irritating is that “monkeys are breeding out of control and have destroyed the birdlife in my garden/neighbourhood/nature reserve and more”. This is, of course a load of twaddle!
When I tell the grumpies this, they are most indignant. Then I hear about the Laughing Doves, the Dusky and Paradise Flycatchers, the Sunbirds, etc, etc, who used to nest in their gardens for years until along came the over-breeding monkeys, ate the young or eggs and broke the nests before tossing them to the ground. Even the Weavers, who usually get the sharp edge of the grumpies’ tounges for destroying Palm and Fever Tree foliage (yes, the same Fever Tree that is really endemic to northern KwaZulu-Natal and doesn’t actually belong in the so-called “indigenous” gardens of most of the rest of KZN) are in favour when the pesky monkeys come around and help themselves to Weaver eggs and chicks. Let a Gymnogene raid the same Weaver colony and the bird lovers are ecstatic!
So why is this claim that monkeys are breeding out of control a load of twaddle?
Fact is that anyone who takes a minute to see what is happening to urban monkeys and those on farm lands will see that the huge numbers dying every day make it impossible for monkey numbers to be on the increase, and our statistics and troop monitoring tell us very loudly that, on the contrary, the number of monkeys in these areas is steadily on the decrease.
So, if not the monkeys, who or what should take the blame because some folk are no longer experiencing the joy of indigenous birds breeding in their gardens and neighbourhoods, if in fact this really is the case?
Firstly, I would like to see the results of some unbiased research on the subject. Then I would also like to see if the researchers have established whether or not the displaced breeding pairs have simply decided to nest elsewhere due to interferences, including that caused by naturally foraging monkeys because the birds had unwittingly chosen to nest in the resident Vervet troop’s daily foraging path.
Surprising as it may seem to the “gotta have the birds breeding in my garden and eating off my bird-feeding tables” folk, there are many other factors impacting on the birdlife in their gardens and surrounds. Many other bird species such as certain Shrikes, Coucals, and Gymnogenes routinely raid the nests of birds. Raptors such as Sparrowhawks and Goshawks catch the parent birds and so also condemn the young to death by starvation, and believe me, the abundance of bird tables with their over fed avian patrons makes the life of these raptors just pure joy. Then there are other natural predators such as Genets, certain Mongooses (and I have personally witnessed Slender Mongooses taking Glossy Starling chicks from their nesting hole in my neighbours Natal Fig), and arboreal snakes who forage freely in our leafy gardens by day or night and who certainly don’t give any on-the-nest parent bird or their eggs or nestlings a miss. Of course we cannot deny the fact that domestic cats, both owned and feral, as well as introduced rats, and even terrier dogs such as the Jack Russell, all take a heavy toll on the birdlife in our gardens and neighbourhood. Add to this the birds dying from being shot with airguns (pellet guns) and catepults, struck by motor cars, flying into electric fencing, getting caught on razor wire, and also from smashing themselves into reflecting window panes on houses and shops, and suddenly we see that monkeys are carrying the blame when in fact they are mostly just a very small contributor to a much bigger picture.
Bottom line is that if the numbers of certain bird species in urban gardens and neighbourhoods are dropping, look for the real reasons as to what is causing this. Just because monkeys are forced to forage throughout their historical territory along routes that bring them into “your” garden, makes them visible to you, and gives you a regular target for your frustrations, doesn’t make them the destructive criminals they are branded by a small, but dangerously vociferous, frequently violent, minority!
My advice to the people who hate monkeys and use the “but they destroy all the birdlife in my garden/neighbourhood” moan to prop up their indefensible, xenophobic-like attitude and behaviour, is to take some time out and just observe the monkeys the next time they visit your garden. Then you will learn what truly amazing little animals they are, and you will realise what a privilege it is to have them around!
Come on, give the monkeys a break! And while you are doing this you might even let your mind wander to the possible effects that habitat destruction, road noise, light pollution, construction activity and noise, and even global warming, are having on the nesting success and presence of many bird species that used to frequent your garden. And whilst you’re about it, don’t forget that curse called FIREWORKS, that at the time of Diwali and Guy Fawkes, even New Year’s Eve, chases terrified parent birds off the nest when many have young or eggs in the nest, causes them to suffer broken wings, legs and beaks or to die from collision with tree branches, powerlines, and other obstacles they can’t see at night.
Monkeys really to blame for a drop in urban bird numbers? I think not!

Another two reasons to ban airgun ownership in South Africa

This post is the same information sent this week to the Northglen News, a community newspaper circulated in Durban North and surrounds. Using community newspapers is a very effective means of making the public aware of the work we do to rescue monkeys and educate people about them, because the newspapers reach most homes free of charge in the areas they cover…

Following is the account of what happened to the young monkey we rescued from James Place in Durban North last Wednesday, January 25th:

Responding to a call about an injured monkey in a James Place, Durban North, garden, Monkey Helpline coordinators, Carol Booth and Steve Smit, were distressed to find yet another monkey paralyzed in the lower body after having been shot with a pellet gun.

“This is the third monkey we have rescued in that particular area over the past year and they were all paralyzed as the result of having lead pellets from an air gun shot into their spine”, said Carol. “They were found in such close proximity that we are convinced that it is the same shooter responsible for all three incidents. This was a beautiful, two-year old female who posed no threat to human or pet, whose only crime was to forage for food in a territory that has been the traditional home of her ancestral troop for countless generations, and certainly for a period that pre-dates the development of that area for human residential purposes.”

Steve says that many people who own and use pellet guns (air gun) are ignorant of the fact that they are committing a crime in terms of the Firearms Control Act, Act 60 0f 2000, in which it is clearly set out that the use of a pellet gun is as strictly controlled as is the use of a firearm.

“When people buy pellet guns the sellers do not notify them that there are strict limitations on the use of pellet guns in residential areas, in fact anywhere that holds the risk of injury to another person or damage to property. It is very irresponsible to both sell and acquire a pellet gun without familiarizing oneself with the relevant legislation controlling the use of such a weapon”, says Steve.

Carol, who is usually the one holding the traumatized monkey en route to the vet where it will be euthanized due to the irreversible damage cause by the pellet smashing its spine, says the heartbreak is almost too much to bear.

“The callous individuals who shoot monkeys just don’t seem to have any compassion and are oblivious to the terrible pain and fear they cause to innocent animals. Once they shoot an animal, and believe me, they also shoot Hadedas, other birds such as doves, pigeons and Indian Mynahs, neighbours dogs and cats, they walk away and leave it where it falls. That the animal can then suffer an agonizing death over days, even weeks, doesn’t concern them at all. These people need to be identified and prosecuted, but the only way this can happen is if neighbours who know who the shooters are come forward and blow the whistle on these criminals. The more successful prosecutions we have, the sooner the shooters will get the message and keep their pellet guns locked away.”

When it comes to identifying the shooters, Steve has no hesitation in stating that it is almost always males who are responsible.

“In a few cases over the years we have had reports of women doing the shooting”, says Steve, “and on each occasion these have been people who have a farm background or whose husbands or fathers are hunters. There is also the misconception that monkeys are shot by bored kids playing around. Fact is that most shootings are by older, male teenagers and adult men and are done with the deliberate intention of maiming or killing the monkey. Pellet guns are not toys!”

A few days after this incident, Monkey Helpline was called out to Redhill, Durban North to rescue another small monkey who had, according to the caller, been bitten by his dog. “We arrived to find a one year old little female Vervet who was hardly able to move, with numerous old injuries on her back and legs”, said Carol. “These appeared to be the result of monkey bites and were of such a nature that the monkey would not have been able to escape from a dog should such an attack have occurred, as the caller said it had. As soon as I picked up the monkey I could see that she had been shot into her head with a lead pellet from a pellet gun. The shooter must have shot her as she sat on the ground, because as an x-ray later revealed, the pellet had entered just below her right temple and travelled downward along the inside of her skull, finally lodging up against the skull at the right back of her brain. In her already injured state the little monkey was helpless and must have sat terrified as the shooter approached her, took aim and fired the pellet into her head”.

The little monkey was taken to Dr Kerry Easson at Riverside Vet in Durban North where she was treated and then taken to the Monkey Helpline ‘high care” where she is being cared for whilst under observation to see how she responds to the effects of the pellet in her brain.

Monkey Helpline has launched an international campaign to get the private ownership of air guns banned in South Africa. For more information on this campaign or to report shooters, contact Monkey Helpline on 082 659 4711 or 082 411 5444, or on or .

Pics – top to bottom:

Top – Young female monkey rescued from James Place, Durban North. The entry site of the pellet that penetrated her spine and paralyzed her is visible on her left side behind her shoulder. This beautiful monkey was humanely euthanized just after this photo was taken. The photo was only taken after she had been gently sedated into total unconsciousness.

Middle – X-ray of the head of the little monkey from Redhill, showing the pellet lodged at the right rear inside the skull.

Bottom – The Redhill monkey under care at the Monkey Helpline “high care” facility in Westville, Durban. Only time will tell whether she will survive the violent assault with a pellet gun.

Monkey Helpline NEEDS YOU!

Its been a while since last I sat down in front of this computer to create a new blog post, primarily because we have been so busy rescuing and caring for Vervet Monkeys, even into the early hours of the morning, that I have been too tired to get my mind around drafting a post for this blog. So what has changed to get me in front of my computer putting on screen what you now have in front of you?

Simply, Monkey Helpline is in dire straits. Financially the burden has just become too much for Carol and I to carry on our own. Actually, I depleted my personal resources a few years ago and because of the 24/7 demands of rescuing and caring for the monkeys we care so much about, I have not been able to do any work that will replenish my bank account. To do this would mean dividing my time between unrelated but paying work and doing monkey rescues, care giving and education. “Well why not do this”, I hear you asking. My answer – rescues and caring for the monkeys we have rescued are, as I have already said, a 24/7 job. Unless, of course, I allocate a specific number of hours daily to rescues, care and education and also hold down a paying job so that any Monkey Helpline work that falls outside of those hours will have to, well, just wait.
Won’t that just go down well with a caring member of the public who calls about a monkey run over by a car and dragging its paralysed lower body as it tries too escape into the roadside bush. “You have two options”, I tell the caller. “I finish work at 4 pm, so if you could please just keep an eye on that monkey until I can get there, it will only be another three hours, I will rush over there as soon as I leave the office. Alternatively just leave the monkey and I’ll pop by after work to see if its still there. If it is still there I’ll pick it up and rush it to the vet, presuming its still alive.”
Fact is, we can only do this work if we are available every time we are called out to a rescue, doing caring and educating in the time between rescues and the vet.
Why then is Monkey Helpline in dire straits?
In a nutshell, we have outgrown ourselves. The more effective and successful we have become at rescuing monkeys, the more monkeys we take into our care, the more time we spend at the vet, the higher our vet bills, fuel costs, cell phone bills, food bill, and other related costs. Add to this that there is virtually no currently available rehabilitation or sanctuary outlet for any of the monkeys that come into our care. More rescues really do mean more expenses, less available time and a desperate need for funding from generous and reliable sources. A sad reality of life is that without funds our capacity to rescue and educate will grind to a halt!

For a number of years now Carol has unselfishly carried the lion’s share of the burden to keep Monkey Helpline delivering the rescue, care and education service for which it has become well known and highly respected. It would be folly for her to continue depleting her own resources to the point wher both she and I are destitute. This would have only one outcome and I don’t need to spell that out here!

So, what now? To give up on the monkeys would destroy us emotionally, a scenario too horrible to even contemplate. Our approximately 750 rescue callouts annually would be left to other animal care organisations to deal with, and with all due respect, they wouldn’t be able to successfully carry out more than a fraction of those. For the monkeys it would be a disaster and a tragedy, and for caring people who make the rescue calls it would be devastating.
But , you can help us to continue helping the monkeys. We are about to embark on a package of ambitious fundraising initiatives, included in which is an appeal for fundraisers who will initate fundraising projects for Monkey Helpline on a commission of total funds raised basis. Will all prospective fundraisers please step forward!!
Another reliable source of funds could be the recruitment of “sustainers”, namely people who commit to a debit order payment of R100 monthly to Monkey Helpline. Two hundred “sustainers” would generate R20 000 per month, a healthy portion of the approximately R30 000 it costs monthly to run Monkey Helpline at its current operating level. This figure would be much higher if Monkey Helpline carried the costs of water, electricity and part time labour currently also borne by Carol, who also makes her house and garden available to Monkey Helpline’s current operation at no cost.
We cannot carry on as things are right now. We have to raise the required funds and we must also expand to provide fully functional sanctuary and rehabilitation facilities. Whether or not we achieve these goals in the immediate future, and there is no alternative because as things are we have no medium or long term future, will determine if Monkey Helpline continues to exist. It has to be 24/7, 365 days a year, or nothing at all. If money is the root of all evil, it is also the food of all success. Without the necessary funding Monkey Helpline is doomed, and so are the monkeys! Monkey Helpline really does need you!!!

P.S. For all of you generous monkey-caring folk who are champing at the bit to contribute to Monkey Helpline, our banking details are as follows:

– Account name: Monkey Helpline
– Bank : Standard Bank
– Branch : Melville
– Account number: 081385439
– Branch code : 006105
– Type of account: Cheque
– Swift code: SBZAZAJJ

– Reference : Your cell phone number or email address

Pics – Top to bottom:

Top – Two baby Vervets rescued by monkey Helpline during this past “baby season” The little guy closest to surrogate mom, Jenny Morgans’, is Drew. He was, as far as we know the first baby rescued in KZN this past baby season – 10 August 2010. He was found in the middle of a service road at the Bluff military base in Durban, on his own, no mother or other monkeys in sight.

Middle – This little one-year old girl was shot into the side of her head and the lead airgun pellet has lodged at the back right inside her skull, hopefully causing minimal brain damage on its way. She is currently under veterinary care and being cared for at the Monkey Helpline high care facility.

Bottom: Monkeys foraging in dustbins and refuse bags put out for collection, incur the wrath of many. Monkey Helpline educates people about how they can humanely prevent monkeys from making this kind of nuisance of themselves.


In the previous blog posting I told you about baby Kyle and how he ended up in the care of Monkey Helpline surrogate mom, Jenny Morgans. It was a sad tale of death and orphaning. Now I can share with you an experience that will bring tears of joy and leave you elated knowing that tragedy can have a happy ending.

But first I must take you back about six weeks prior to the rescue of baby Kyle – (Top pic shows a crying, blood-smeared Kyle newly rescued off his dead mother’s body).

Monkey Helpline was called out to Hudd Road, Athlone Park in Amanzimtoti by Grant Thomson, who had spotted a pregnant female Vervet in his garden with a really bad injury to her left arm. A lover of the Vervet Monkeys, Grant had watched this female as she struggled to compete for food and appeared totally out of sorts because of the severity of her injury, and he felt that we might be able to help her. As soon as we saw her we decided that we needed to trap her and get her to our vet, Dr Kerry Easson of Riverside Veterinary Clinic in Durban North, for a check up and treatment of her injury.

We trapped her and rushed her straight to Kerry who, after sedating her, diagnosed a severe and badly infected bite wound to that region of her left arm above and below the elbow, and cutting right through the muscle and main tendon at the back of her arm just above and through the elbow. Kerry re-attached muscle and tendon and Leila, as Carol had named her, came to the Monkey Helpline High Care to recover.

Three weeks later Kerry checked her almost fully healed injury and declared her fit for release. Our attempts over a number of weeks to reintroduce Leila to her troop failed. The first time we tried to return her to her troop almost ended in disaster. Shortly after we released her, a group of adult females viciously attacked her, chasing her into a house where we managed to recapture her, and during both subsequent attempted releases they were so aggressive towards her whilst she was still confined in our transport cage that we decided it would be too risky to release her in her advanced state of pregnancy. We felt that in her best interests and those of her as yet unborn baby we should now place Leila in a rehabilitation programme.

Unfortunately, two weeks later Leila had a miscarriage, giving birth to a dead but fully formed, close to term, baby!

Now back to baby Kyle!

After taking Kyle into her care, Jenny took him to vet Kerry where a thorough check-up confirmed that he had miraculously survived the violent death of his mother without so much as a scratch or bruise, and that all the blood Jenny had cleaned off him was in fact his mother’s.

Back home, Jenny wrapped Kyle in a blue blanket, bottle-fed him, then carried him with her to check on the monkeys in her outside recovery cage. As Jenny approached the cage, Leila immediately came right up to her and gazed intensely at the blanket. Jenny opened the blanket so that Leila could see Kyle. To Jenny’s amazement Leila reached through the wire and gently touched Kyle. She clearly wanted to take the baby. Jenny phoned us right away, so we raced over to her house to see if Leila would actually take Kyle from Jenny and adopt him as her own.

With Carol trying to video-film the whole thing, Jenny entered Leila’s cage with Kyle. Leila rushed forward, grabbed Kyle from Jenny, tucked him into her body and ran back to her sleeping basket. We held our collective breath as she inspected Kyle and left us in no doubt that she had adopted him the moment she laid eyes on him.

Kyle, though, was not that easily convinced that this was his new mother. He squirmed and twisted and climbed and cried right through the remainder of that day and the next. He was a baby from hell, but Leila did not flinch. She gently pulled him back every time he tried to escape her hold, pushed his face firmly against her nipples encouraging him to suckle, all the time making sure he was safely within the circle of her arms. In his frustration to “escape” to his own mother who, no doubt he still believed was somewhere out there waiting to “rescue” him, he bit and scratched and pulled at any part of Leila’s body he could reach. Her gentle and loving resolve was just awesome to behold and she tolerated everything he could throw at her, holding him tight and kissing him on top of his little head and over his face in an effort to console and comfort him.

Of course Leila had not actually had a baby and it was exactly seven days since her miscarriage, so she had no milk in her breasts. And Kyle was getting hungry, and also grinchy, and he needed food! So we had no choice but to catch Leila and steal Kyle back from her. Jenny kept him with her long enough to give him two good bottle feeds and then gave him back to Leila who grabbed him from Jenny the moment she opened the inner door of the cage. Kyle, his little tummy full of warm milk, spent a comfortable night sleeping tightly clutched to Leila’s comforting body. Throughout the next day, which happened to be Friday, Leila loved and nurtured Kyle whilst he put on his very best brat kid performance. She, on the other hand, was being the best mother any little kid monkey could ever wish for – though he did not yet appreciate his blessing! He did however latch to his adoptive mom’s nipples – both nipples in his mouth at the same time as is the way with Vervet babies – but she still had no milk and this must have contributed greatly to his unhappiness. So once again, at the end of the day, we had the unenviable task of catching Leila and taking Kyle away to be bottle-fed. And once again Laila was waiting at the door to grab Kyle back from Jenny after he had drunk his fill from the bottle.

I must mention that throughout this entire process we were constantly in touch with our good friend, Karen Trendler, one of South Africa’s foremost wildlife care-givers and rehabilitation experts, who is also Monkey Helpline’s rehabilitation and wildlife husbandry advisor. Karen’s calm support and advice were invaluable!

Come Saturday morning and Kyle seemed very content as he suckled from his new mom – (in contrast the centre pic shows a sad, newly orphaned baby Kyle with his rescuer, Karon Hutchison, her husband, Gary, and son, Kyle), and Leila was going about her business unfazed, one protective arm always holding Kyle close and safe. But by that evening Jenny was like a mother hen with a newly hatched brood of chicks who were all running in different directions. She was convinced that Kyle was getting weaker, that he was dehydrated and that we must come and get him for her to bottle-feed again. You see, Jenny is used to being the surrogate mom, where she can feed and feel and touch and love the baby monkey – she is lovingly in control, just like any good mother should be! It was really hard for her to watch baby Kyle from a distance and not know if his tummy had food in it or not! So Carol and I went over and had a good look at Kyle. He seemed fine to us. But, just to be sure, I phoned Karen and discussed with her what I was seeing. She asked the right questions, got the answers and suggested we leave Kyle till the morning and see how he was doing. She reckoned that if he wasn’t acting all irritable, was latched to the nipples, looked bright-eyed and was firmly attached to his new mom, he was probably fine and that in all likelihood Leila was starting to produce milk.

By Sunday morning Kyle was still suckling, wasn’t crying and looked pretty strong. And we haven’t touched him again. He is the happiest, healthiest baby monkey you could ever meet. Leila has milk to spare and is the most awesome mom. She absolutely loves her baby!

So how did this all come together so beautifully after the terrible tragedies that befell Leila and Kyle?

When Leila gave birth to her dead baby, she carried the tiny body for two days. We decided not to take the baby away until she allowed Jenny to do so. When she did put the body down, Jenny went in, picked it up and wrapped it in a blue blanket. Outside the closed inner gate, Jenny put the little bundle on the ground then opened it enough for Leila to see her dead baby. Jenny left it like that for a while then wrapped the baby and took the bundle away. When, five days after taking Leila’s dead baby away in a blue blanket, Jenny showed baby Kyle to Leila and got the response she did, she had by complete coincidence also wrapped Kyle in a blue blanket. Only afterwards when we discussed Leila’s first reaction to Kyle did the importance of the blue blanket strike us. Jenny suddenly recalled that Leila had last seen her dead baby taken away in a blue blanket, and now when Jenny opened a blue blanket again there was “her” baby, alive! Some might scoff at this but we really do think that Leila might believe that Kyle really is her baby. After all, we have rescued little monkeys hit by motor cars or bitten by dogs and left for dead. We have treated them and successfully reunited them with their mothers, three, four, and even up to ten weeks later. The mother has recognized her child and taken it back and the experience is something that we cannot find the words to adequately describe – it is simply mind-blowing!

Now the future looks bright for mom and baby. They will form part of a seed troop that is bonded together as part of a process of bonding a larger number of rescued monkeys into a full size troop that will, in a few years time, be rehabilitated into the wild where they will live as all releasable monkeys should – FREE!!!


One thing about this business of monkey rescue is that you can be quite sure that you will constantly be challenged to do the almost impossible as a routine part of your daily rescue effort.
One such situation confronted us last Tuesday afternoon, July 12, when we responded to an impassioned plea for help from our veterinarian, Dr Kerry Easson.

Working in her Durban North garden on her day off, Kerry’s attention was drawn to a monkey’s agitated chattering beyond her front hedge. Curious, she went out into the road to see what all the fuss was about and saw an adult female Vervet monkey peering into the storm water drain in the centre of the t-junction intersection close by. Kerry went to the drain and peered through the circular, perforated cast-iron drain cover. She could hardly believe what she saw – a small baby Vervet monkey perched on the stepping rung near the top of the two-and-half meter deep manhole.

Totally flummoxed as to how the monkey had got there, Kerry did the first thing that came to mind – she called Monkey Helpline!

Carol and I jumped into our vehicle and rushed from Westville to Durban North as fast as we could considering we had to negotiate afternoon rush hour traffic made worse by faulty traffic lights and disorganized road works.

We arrived to find an agitated Kerry tapping her wrist watch at us as if to say, “what kept you?”, and a small crowd of curious onlookers and wannabe helpers. It was a relief to see Doug Fairall there. Doug is a friend and feral cat catcher supreme and together we had previously had experiences involving cats rescued from similar situations as this one we now faced with the little monkey.

One look at the tightly set, very heavy cast iron drain cover and we knew that our efforts would be wasted without the necessary heavy duty equipment which we were certain must be a normal part of the Metro water workers’ issued “tool box”.

But we decided to try and lift the lid ourselves before troubling the overworked Metro storm water standby team. Very soon we realized that we would have more success trying to lift the lid on South Africa’s arms deal corruption allegations. Desperate to get the monkey out so that we could reunite her with mommy Vervet who was anxiously waiting in a nearby tree top and keeping a protective eye on proceedings before the fading daylight forced her to follow her troop to their sleeping location, we decided to call out the relevant Metro work team. Calls to Metro water got no response other than unanswered ringing. Calls to the emergency services, however, got an immediate response and in no time a big, bright yellow Fire and Accident Emergency truck arrived with a friendly and willing emergency rescue team. Our joy was short lived when we realized that all they could offer was a bigger crow-bar than the one we had. Their best efforts were to no avail, proving the adage that “bigger isn’t always better” and so, sincerely apologetic at being unable to assist, they departed – with their crow-bar – and a promise to get hold of Metro storm water.

Regularly, as we tried to devise a plan to free the trapped monkey, we could see her small arms and hands stick up through the vents in the drain cover as if beckoning her mother to come and fetch her, and her frightened cries echoed upwards. As soon as it became dark the little monkey stopped calling for her mom and just sat hunched over in depressed acceptance of her fate. With all the banging and clanking, caused by our efforts to lift the drain cover, the little monkey never lifted her head, not even with the constant interference of torchlight being shone into the drain to see if she had moved into one of the connecting drain pipes to escape the noisy activity above her.

Hours, and many frustratingly unproductive phone calls, later we finally had the satisfaction of seeing the Metro Storm Water standby team arriving in their truck. But once again our hopes were dashed when they too offered a crow-bar as the tool of the moment. We could not believe that no special lifting device existed that would easily lift out the stubborn drain cover. So vociferously did we dismiss their offer of a crow bar that they offered to bring a “jack-hammer” to break out the entire cast iron drain top. Thanks, but no thanks! Imagine the terror in that small monkey sitting in the confines of a man hole with a jack-hammer beating the hell out of the road above.

Then sanity prevailed and the shift supervisor, now alerted to the goings on, agreed to come on site and offer the benefit of his experience. Even before arriving he authorized a crane truck to come on site and lift up the drain cover. As the crane truck arrived we knew that the little monkey would soon be safely out of that drain.

Half an hour later, it was already 7.30 pm, the crane lifted the drain cover out of the bed it had been so reluctant to leave. There had been a few frustrating moments when the steel rods, hooked into the drain cover and attached to the crane hook, bent open under strain as if made of plastic, but once these were replaced with heavy duty chains the drain cover came out with surprising ease.

And through all of this commotion the little monkey still huddled over as if by keeping her eyes closed and her back to the world above she would remain safe until her mom could rescue her in the morning. She was easily grabbed and passed into the safe and comforting arms of Carol, a full three-and-a-half hours after we first saw her frightened little face looking up at us from inside the drain. Only then did we realize how tiny she was, probably no older than six months, and covered in small cuts and healing injuries all over her little body.

For the next week or so the little monkey, named Kerry after our vet who first drew our attention to her plight, will stay in the Monkey Helpline “high care”. An on-site veterinary check-up showed that she had no physical injuries from her ordeal in the storm water drain but could not discount the possibility of an ailment that might have driven her into the road water run-off drain in the first place. Once Carol is happy that Kerry monkey is healthy and ready to be released, we’ll take her back to where we rescued her and try and reintroduce her to her mother.

Kerry monkey can owe her life to alertness of vet Kerry and the combined efforts and compassion of a whole bunch of people.

What a rescue!!

Pics – Top to bottom:

1 The two-and-half meter deep storm water drain out of which the baby monkey was rescued.

2 Carol takes a hands-on approach in affixing the chains that did the trick.

3 Newly rescued Kerry monkey cuddles safely iunto Carol

4 A relieved, but proud, rescue team with Dr Kerry Easson (green theatre pants left front) and Durban Metro supervisor, Ishen Sukai (extreme right). Ishen’s wife, Venesha, and young daughter, Shradda, came along to witness the operation that had called them all away from the comfort of home.


Last weekend we had the sad task of capturing a handsome young adult male Vervet monkey who was the tragic victim of some morally retarded scumbag who thought he could prove his dubious manhood by shooting an arrow into the body of an unsuspecting monkey.

One can only imagine the pain and anguish suffered by the monkey as the arrow smashed through his body then protruded obscenely from either side, sharp point at one end and gayly coloured feather flights at the other. To watch that monkey in the last hours of his life as he struggled to breath with one collapsed lung and his body shaking from the effects of massive infection, getting weaker by the minute and struggling more and more to hold tight and not fall to the ground far below, is an experience I would hope to erase from my memory but never will.
We can only hope that someone who knows who this coward is will have the courage to contact us and provide the information we need for an arrest and conviction. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to see this despicable person thrown into jail and subjected to whatever might await him there.
As of today the reward offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction has been increased to R12 000 .
Following below is a statement sent through to the South Coast Herald for inclusion in an article published this week about the shooting and subsequent death of this monkey:
“On Saturday evening we were alerted to the plight of a male Vervet monkey in Uvongo. He had been shot through with an arrow from a bow, the arrow penetrating his chest from the left next to his shoulder, and protruding from his abdomen on the right.

The monkey was high in the branches of a dead tree and rather than disturb him at the risk of losing him in the failing light, we decided to return the next morning to dart him with a sedative and catch him that way. We were told that he had been in that tree for at least two days. It was obvious from his labored breathing and the tremors racking his body every now and again that he was in a bad way.

We returned on Sunday and after some effort managed to sedate him and catch him. Unfortunately he died a few minutes after capture. Close inspection and a post mortem at the vet showed that the arrow had passed through the left lung, through the diaphragm and through his liver before exiting the right abdominal body wall.

Severe peritonitis had set in and this monkey suffered terribly before eventually dying from his injuries and the related infection.

It should be stated that this is the fifth monkey that we know to having been shot with an arrow along a sixty kilometer section of the South Coast, stretching from Scottburgh to Uvongo. (Scottburgh – 1 adult male, Pennington – 1 adult female, 1 adult male, Uvongo – 1 adult male, Oslo beach – 1 adult unknown gender).

Most South Coast residents we have spoken to are incensed at this cruelty and are quick to point out this must be the work of a few socially dysfunctional individuals. It is certainly not representative of the attitude of most South Coast residents to monkeys. Even those who consider monkeys a pest and a nuisance would not want to see them injured.

Shooting or in any other way injuring monkeys is an offence in terms of both the provincial conservation ordinance and the national Animal Protection Act, and contravention of these laws carries heavy penalties, which could include both a fine and a jail sentence.

Perceptions that monkeys are breeding out of control are totally wrong. Every troop that we monitor is actually decreasing in size from one year to the next as their habitat is degraded and they have to spend more and more time in urban areas, facing the threat of motor vehicles, dogs, electrocution on high voltage power lines, razor wire, people with pellet guns, paintball guns and catapults, poison, and much more. These cause far more fatalities than natural predators ever did.

Monkey Helpline appeals to members of the public to keep a look out for these ruthless killers of monkeys. We believe that all these cases are related, either carried out by the same person or by a small group of two or three working together. We would like to see a public comment and denouncement of these arrow killings made by the archery/bow hunting fraternity, but their silence has been deafening. This leaves the impression, expressed by many who have contacted us, that these cruel killings are condoned by the archery and bow hunting fraternities.

Anyone with information about any of these shootings can contact Monkey Helpline on 082 659 4711 (Steve) or 082 411 5444 (Carol), or on, on . All information will be treated with utmost discretion and there is an R11000 reward for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator or perpetrators.”



Top – The monkey sits forlornly and in terrible pain on a Strelitzia leaf, the arrow clearly visible.

Second down – Carol holds the sedated, dying monkey upright in an attempt to assist his laboured breathing.

Third down – Checking for a heart beat – in vain.

Bottom – Our regular vet, Dr Kerry Easson, does the post mortem to assess the damage causd by the arrow.

To kill a monkey

There has been another monkey shot by some low-life archer on the mid-South Coast in KZN. This time its a beautiful, mature female who is still nursing a baby. Today she is dead and her baby is an orphan!

Following is the media response by Carol and myself to the above-mentioned incident:

“Appalled but not surprised”, was the response of Steve Smit and Carol Booth, joint co-ordinators of KZN-based organization, Monkey Helpline.

On Sunday afternoon Steve and Carol were called out to attempt to capture the wounded female Vervet monkey after initial attempts to capture or dart her had failed. “When we arrived at the Edward Road residence in Pennington where the monkey had taken refuge, we found her to have come to rest high in the leafy canopy of a tall tree”, said Carol. She was totally inaccessible and seemed reluctant to move. She appeared to slip in and out of consciousness and was obviously in great pain and discomfort. The bloody wound in her left side showed clearly where the arrow had penetrated her body, and the front third of the arrow could be seen protruding from her rear, and then passing right through her tail. She had chewed through the rear, flighted portion of the arrow and only the front portion of the arrow remained in her body and protruding from her rear.”

“This is the second incident of a monkey being shot with an arrow in the Pennington-Scottburgh area in the past two months”, said Steve. “In both cases the shooter hit the target but failed to score a kill. It is obvious that these sadists are not nearly the accurate archers they fancy themselves to be, and I shudder to think of what is happening out there on the hunting farms where bow-hunters are killing animals for fun and out of reach of public scrutiny.”

Steve emphasizes that both of these recent arrow-shooting incidents involving monkeys are criminal acts that can be prosecuted in terms of the Animal Protection Act, Act 72 0f 1962. “We need to identify these criminals and have them arrested and prosecuted. We believe that both perpetrators can be identified and appeal to anyone with information to contact us in this regard. Handsome rewards are offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of one or both of the shooters.”

Carol believes that acts of cruelty such as these two arrow-shooting incidents are the work of a minority of uninformed, intolerant and downright cruel people who also believe that killing animals for entertainment is their divine right. “The fact that bow-hunting is growing in popularity is an indication that hunting is primarily a form of ego-boosting entertainment and that arguments claiming that it is an important conservation tool or a means of providing wholesome food are flawed at best and downright false at worst. Why don’t hunters just come out and say honestly that they hunt for fun and stop trying to justify their murderously bloody pastime as something honourable and necessary?”

Steve says he is amazed that there has been no public condemnation of these two arrow-shootings by any organized archery or bow-hunting body. “Their silence is deafening and I can only conclude that they have no problem with what has been done to these monkeys. One imagines that they would distance themselves from these acts of cruelty because their silence appears to condone what has happened. We have, however, been told by quite a few individual practitioners of archery that they condemn these shootings in the strongest terms. We have also been contacted by two bow hunters who say that these acts violate the ethics of bow-hunting and that they would like to see the perpetrators identified and prosecuted.”

In concluding, both Steve and Carol say that the many hours they spent watching the Pennington monkey whilst trying to lure her down to their trap, were emotionally traumatic. “We knew she was dying and we could not help her”, lamented Steve. “Her frequent cries and groans were horrible to hear but we knew that we had to stay with her, in spirit even if unable to alleviate her pain. Just before dark her baby started calling to her from the trees across the road, and we could only imagine how the emotional trauma of hearing her baby, yet knowing she did not have the strength to respond, must have tortured her mind. It certainly tortured ours and I so wished that the person who shot her could have been there to witness the terrible suffering resulting from his or her selfish and sadistic action. And he or she should have accompanied us to the vet the next morning when we picked her up at the bottom of the tree she had fallen from during the night, driven with us to the vet whilst she cried and whimpered in pain, and then watched as she died even as the vet, Dr Peter Biden, did all in his power to save her. By not witnessing the direct consequences of his or her actions, the shooter certainly got a raw deal considering all the time and money he or she invested in sourcing and procuring their weapon of cruel destruction!”

Steve and Carol stayed with the wounded monkey until a few hours after dark to ensure that she remained in the tree for the night and did not try to get back across the road into the bush where she would have died unseen. They returned to Pennington from Durban at 5am the next morning in order to be there at first light in the event that the monkey was strong enough to come down from the tree. Tragicly, she had fallen from the tree during the night and was found by residents Bill and Gay as she tried to crawl away. Bill thought she was dead and called to Carol who immediately saw that, though close to death, she was still alive. “She was hypothermic so I wrapped my warm jacket around her and kept her on my lap and legs as gently as I could whilst we raced to meet Dr Biden at his veterinary practice in Park Rynie”, said Carol. “Her cries and groans of pain were just too sad for words and I cried all the way to the vet. They were tears of both heartache and anger, both for her pain and suffering and for the fact that she had left behind a baby her so desperately needed her. That little orphan will have a tough time surviving without his or her mother!”

Top pic – The female monkey being made comfortable on Carol’s lap as we leave for the vet in an effort to save her or, at the very least, end her pain and suffering.

Middle pic – Half of the arrow that killed this beautiful, nursing mother Vervet. Now she is dead, and her pain is over!

Bottom pic – Steve looks on as Dr Peter Biden of the Scottburgh Veterinary Clinic in Park Rynie does all he can to save the female Vervet’s life. Sadly all in vain…

6 June 2011



This post is largely the article submitted to, and published in, three KZN community newspapers this past week. Its purpose is to explain the mating season behaviour currently prevalent in Vervet monkey troops, as adult males joust for position and beat off those opportunistic males who want access to females, and to emphasise that this behaviour, loud and apparently aggressive as it is, should be of no concern to humans. It is totally monkey focused:

Vervet monkey mating season is here and the result is that there is more squabbling, more fighting and lots of monkeys, particularly mature males, with severe injuries. The consequence of all of this is a huge amount of additional work for Monkey Helpline rescuers.

Steve Smit, joint co-ordinator with Carol Booth of Monkey Helpline, says that many people become very nervous of monkeys when they see the aggression and ugly injuries that are so prevalent during mating season. “But they have nothing to be concerned about”, says Steve. “All the aggression and posturing is amongst the monkeys themselves and does not translate into any aggression towards humans or their companion animals.”

Carol says that at this time of year Monkey Helpline experiences a marked increase in phone calls from concerned members of the public. “They see and hear the fighting, and also see badly injured and bleeding monkeys, and are concerned for the safety of their children and dogs, believing that they too are in danger of being attacked by an aggressive monkey. Fortunately the monkeys are only focused on the issues around mating and status within their troop and have no interest in humans or other animals.”

“We do also get lots of calls from people who are concerned about the well being of the injured monkeys”, says Steve. “ The injuries that some of the monkeys sustain can be extremely bad and to the untrained eye they look life threatening, which they often are. Interestingly enough, most people think that these monkeys have been shot or bitten by a dog. But monkey-inflicted injuries are easily recognized because their razor sharp teeth inflict injuries that resemble a scalpel cut. Once inflicted the injury often gapes and looks very bad. Our dilemma is deciding which calls we respond to and which we don’t. We can’t possibly go out and rescue every monkey who gets injured during these confrontations. We don’t have the capacity to do this, but it is also not always necessary. Monkeys have amazing healing capacity and recover from the most unbelievable injuries. However, we also know that an injury that looks minor can result in an infection, even tetanus, and cause the death of the monkey. It is never an easy decision to make but it is something we do every day. When someone phones in out of concern for a monkey, we have a series of pertinent questions we ask. Based on what we are told we then decide whether to go and carry out the rescue or not. If there is any doubt we will always go out to see for ourselves and then make the decision whether or not we’ll catch and treat the monkey.”

Carol believes that the mating season aggression between urban monkeys is far greater than amongst monkeys living in more natural areas. “Urban monkeys are under ongoing stress because of constant harassment. People don’t realize that monkeys are not invading our living space. Wherever we see them in our suburbs it is because they are in their traditional territory that has been drastically changed by human occupation and development. They have been here for many generations and have been subjected to increasing persecution, both deliberate and unintentional. Destruction of natural habitat, being chased and attacked by dogs, being shot at and chased from one property to the next by homeowners, having to cross dangerous roads, encountering razor wire and electric fencing, and much more has left urban Vervet monkeys on edge, and as a result of this the fights that take place between monkeys are more intense and frequent than would be the case if they were less stressed and had fewer dangers to deal with. Domestic dogs are predators and kill far more monkeys in urban areas than are killed by natural predators in the wild. In urban areas, as monkeys go about their daily foraging, they encounter a lethal predator in the form of a domestic dog virtually every fifteen to twenty meters. Their mortality rate is much higher than would be the case if they were living in a more natural environment, which is why urban troops of monkeys are much smaller than troops in the wild, and are in fact steadily decreasing in size from one year to the next.”

Steve and Carol are heartened by the fact that most people wish the monkeys no harm, and once their fears about monkeys have been allayed they become far more tolerant of the presence of these little animals. “Very few people actually wish monkeys any harm, and even fewer still will deliberately harm them”, says Carol. “We offer free advice to anyone who is having problems with monkeys around their home or at schools, etc, and we do many educational talks throughout the year. Monkeys are amazing animals and it takes just a little time and effort to ensure that they are not an intolerable nuisance. What monkeys need more than anything else is your understanding of who they are, why they behave the way they do, and what you should and shouldn’t do when they are around.”

Both Steve and Carol ask that members of the public understand that they are full-time volunteers doing this work out of love for monkeys and also to help people who are experiencing “problems” with the presence of monkeys.

“We get many calls every day for assistance and advice, or from people reporting an injured monkey, so we have to prioritize what we will deal with first”, says Carol. “Obviously someone needing advice or assistance is rarely, if ever, more important than a rescue, so if we must decide what to attend to first, the rescue wins hands down, and then we get to the advice or assistance as soon as we are able to after the rescue. Unfortunately it is not uncommon for callers to threaten to shoot or poison the monkeys if we don’t respond immediately in the way they expect. These callers get told in no uncertain terms what will happen to them if they do act on their threats. We also have to put up with verbal abuse and even threats of violence from people who believe that we are responsible for their problems with monkeys or because we don’t drop everything in order to give them our undivided attention. Many people erroneously believe that we are paid by the authorities to do this work and so expect us to provide an immediate service that is paid for by their taxes. Other than our personal funding of the Monkey Helpline, our only financial support comes in the form of small, random donations from the public.”

Pics top to bottom:

Top – A brave adult male Vervet monkey threatens Monkey Helpline rescuers as they pick up a twelve week old baby Vervet lying next to the road in Havenside, Chatsworth after being hit by a speeding car. He was supported by the mother Vervet and most of the troop members. When the healthy baby was returned to her mother at the same location two weeks later, this male was equally protective. On both occasions Carol was able to keep the entire troop of monkeys at bay simply by shaking and flicking a towel at them.

Middle – This adult male Vervet monkey spent eight months with Monkey Helpline recovering after the amputation of his left leg – carried out by veterinarian, Dr Kerry Easson – after a bad injury to his foot led to severe infection in much of the bone in that leg. He was released in Cowies Hill at the same place he was originally rescued, but three weeks later he was back on the very exercise cage in our garden where he had spent months regaining his strength and agility. He has become a fully integrated member of our free ranging wild troop and visits our home with them almost every day. He shows no resentment towards us for the months of incarceration, medication and injections we forced on him.

Bottom – Monkeys visiting our garden enjoy snacks in the company of a hen and an Egyptian goose. They are frequently joined by a number of our rescued cats who enjoy the brown bread we mix with the snacks given to the monkeys. Not once has there been any aggressive behaviour by the monkeys towards the birds or the cats!