They shoot monkeys, don’t they!!

Today we want to use an incident of monkey shooting that occurred on the upmarket Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate (MECCE) near Umhlanga, north of Durban, to highlight the brutal consequences of people shooting monkeys with pellet guns.
On September 1, 2008, we contacted by a resident of Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate (MECCE) in connection with an apparently injured male monkey. The caller said that the monkey had arrived at her premises in Columbia Crescent, MECCE, and spent what appeared to be an inordinate amount of time just lying down. When the troop moved off the monkey remained behind and when he did try and walk he did so with difficulty, his hindquarters obviously injured.

Arriving at the scene we quickly caught the monkey and took him to our vet, Dr Kerry Easson, of the Riverside Veterinary Clinic in Durban North. Severe bruising in the monkey’s lower belly and groin area as well as on his hip, plus the visibly out of alignment position of the left hip were all indicative of him having been struck by a motor vehicle. X-rays confirmed a fracture in the left pelvis and also revealed six airgun pellets in the monkey’s body.

It is highly likely that the effects of the pellet injuries debilitated the monkey to the extent that he was unable to cross a road quickly enough to avoid being hit by a motor car.

It is a disgrace that callous, monkey-hating residents of MECCE are able to shoot monkeys with pellet guns with impunity, whereas the monkey-loving residents on the same estate who want to feed the monkeys are threatened by the MECCE Management Association (MECCEMA) with being in breach of MECCE management rules and can be fined. We know of at least two residents who have each been fined R10 000 (ten thousand rand) each by MECCEMA. Both have paid this money to MECCEMA who then donated it to a charity of the resident’s choice.

A number of monkeys have been badly injured or killed after being shot with pellet guns at MECCE over the past two years and more. Over eighty percent of all the monkeys rescued by us and X-rayed by Dr Easson, have pellets in their bodies, and its not uncommon for there to be anywhere between two and twelve pellets in a single monkey. It’s hard to describe the agony that monkeys endure after being wounded with a pellet from an airgun. If the pellet breaks a bone, the monkey has to get around unaided and with no pain relief until the fracture heals. This can take many weeks and even months. Imagine if you had your femur smashed by a bullet and you had to go about your daily business with a badly broken leg without any medical attention, every day for weeks on end, until it healed. The pain would be unbearable. Monkeys shot in the lung or abdomen suffer indescribable agony and can take up to two weeks to die. Even if we rescue them before they die we have to euthanase them. And many monkeys are also blinded by pellets hitting them in the eye or entering the brain and severing the optic nerve. Considering that monkeys do not attack and injure humans or pets, nothing that a monkey does can be so bad that it deserves this kind of violent abuse. What makes things even worse is how often baby monkeys and pregnant females get shot.

Monkeys being shot with pellet guns is not an uncommon occurrence at MECCE, and that for this to be happening in an upmarket residential estate that markets itself as an eco-estate is indefensible. We know that this has been reported to the MECCEMA on a number of occasions, yet they have done little or nothing to stop it. If they put a fraction of the effort into punishing the shooters as they do to punishing the feeders, it would go a long way toward resolving this problem.

We are appealing to the many MECCE residents who wish the monkeys no harm to help us identify the shooters and to put pressure on the MECCEMA to take strong and decisive action against these callous and intolerant individuals.

We have now set up an urgent meeting for September 10 with the newly appointed MECCE manager in an effort to end the unjustifiable persecution of these world famous Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate monkeys. The outcome of this meeting wll be posted on our blog Wednesday evening.

PS. This information was sent out on September 2 as a press release and forms the basis of the main front page article in the September 9 edition of the Northglen News!

The monkey shown here died as the result of having ten pellets in her body, AND then being struck by a motor car on the M 19 W near Pinetown because, in her pellet-riddled state she could not avoid the cars speeding towards her on the freeway she was trying to cross.

Education a vital tool in saving monkeys!

When writing up the daily Monkey Helpline rescue diary it is easy to get so caught up with the drama of actual rescues that we easily forget the equally important educational aspect of what the Monkey Helpline does. Fact is, that no matter how many monkeys we rescue, we will not drastically reduce the incidence of cruelty and violence against monkeys unless we change the way people think about monkeys. And this we do through the handing out of educational leaflets, and talks to schools, activity groups, Metro Police cadets, conservation and animal welfare NGO’s, groups of honorary conservation officers, veterinarians and many others. In doing these talks we always try to do a PowerPoint slide-show because of the impact that the images have on the viewers. Its one thing talking about monkeys generally, but when the audience is watching images of animals who we have actually rescued, and can see the actual injuries, and we can talk about our experiences relating to that particular animal, it really gets their attention and sympathy.

Rescues also provide a good opportunity to speak to people at the site where a monkey was injured and/or rescued. Just seeing close up the trauma suffered by the monkey, and the effort the rescuers go to in order to catch and care for the animal, makes a huge impact on many of the people watching the rescue and can seriously and positively alter their thinking about monkeys.

A hidden dimension of the Monkey Helpline’s daily activities is the phone calls or emails from people who are having problems with monkeys. Most of these people wish the monkeys no harm, and all they want is advice from Carol or me on how to keep the monkeys out of their house and garden. A brief chat over the phone or by email, and sending them a copy of our leaflet, “Vervet monkeys: What you need to know“,is usually sufficient for these callers.

But then you get those folk who say they really dislike the monkeys and all they want is for us to come and remove the whole troop and dump it far away, failing which they will “be driven to shooting or poisoning the whole lot”. This is the point at which you curse your enthusiasm in answering your partner’s cellphone to give them time to dry their hands or swallow the mouthful of food they had just taken! In most cases this tendency by some callers to threaten violence against the monkeys is born of frustration at not knowing how to deal with the “problem” that confronts them. So, with heroic wads of patience in allowing the caller to offload their anger and sometimes “hatred” of monkeys, you explain how you absolutely understand why they feel about monkeys the way they do, but that they don’t have to feel that way, and then start giving them the advice they need, and surprisingly often there is a metamorphosis in their attitude. This proves the point that most people who “dislike/hate” the monkeys do so out of fear or intolerance based on ignorance and a sense of helplessness. Give them the tools they need, in his case “knowledge”, to deal with their “problem” humanely, and suddenly what was an unscaleable mountain for them becomes a manageable hill.

And so it is that the genuine monkey haters are way, way in the minority, yet they do have an enormous impact on the lives of monkeys as they deliberately harm and kill these little animals for no justifiable reason. You only have to look at the number of monkeys rescued by us with lead pellets in their bodies to realise that even though monkey haters are a minority, they exist in sufficient numbers to be of serious concern to us.

Just think about it. If you have forty households in a single street, some of who have problems with monkeys but opt not to harm them, and you have only one person in the street who shoots the monkeys with a pellet gun each time they come near his home, that single person can devastate the entire troop over a relatively short period of time. And in doing so causes indescribable pain, suffering and frequently death to the affected monkeys.

And just as bad as the shooting is for the monkeys, so is the attitude of the neighbours who know who is doing the shooting but won’t do anything about it because they don’t want to sour relations with the shooter. As Carol always says about this: “Who wants to maintain good relations with a neighbour who cruelly harms the animals you claim to love, or at least care about? Would you want to maintain such good relations with a neighbour who shot your child with a pellet gun? Something doesn’t quite make sense here.”

Back to rescues. A few days ago I wrote about injured adult male Vervets, and how we decide whether of not to attempt a rescue. Well, no day is complete in the lives of the Monkey Helpline rescue team if we don’t get at least one call from someone concerned about a “badly” injured male monkey.

And so on Spring Day, September 1st, our first call of the day was from an old friend of the monkeys to say that a huge male Vervet who had been visiting her home in Malvern, Durban regularly for years, always on his own and gentle as anything, had arrived with his one eye totally removed. After establishing from her that he was otherwise fit and healthy and seemed to be coping well with only one eye, we asked her to monitor him and to contact us immediately if she thought he was in trouble due to his injury.

We see a surprisingly high number of rescued Vervets with a blind eye, and we always wonder if the loss of an eye contributes to the monkey being injured and so having to be rescued, especially in cases of injury by another monkey, a dog or a motor car.

Then our last rescue call of the day was from a resident of Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate, scene of the current National Geographic series on Vervets, “Street Monkeys”. From the caller’s description we knew that this monkey needed to be seen by a vet. When we arrived at the caller’s home she was sitting less than a meter from the monkey, a young adult male, who seemed comfortable enough sitting and eating the food she was handing him as per our request in order to keep him from moving off before we arrived. As Carol and I approached, the monkey moved off a meter or so and it was immediately obvious that there was something seriously wrong with his pelvis, most probably the result of being hit by a car. We quickly caught him and rushed off to Riverside Veterinary Clinic where Dr Kerry Easson took X-rays. No surprises when the X-ray showed that he had a broken pelvis. Nor were we surprised by the X-ray image of the six lead pellets in his body. The upmarket estate where we caught him is marketed as an eco-estate, yet we regularly find monkeys injured or killed there by people using pellet guns with total disregard for the suffering they are responsible for. (We’ll deal with this in an upcoming posting!)

Unlucky to have been shot six times. Unlucky to have been struck by a motor car. Lucky to have been spotted by an observant and caring person who called the Monkey Helpline. Lucky to have been caught and taken to a good vet. Lucky to be in the Monkey Helpline high care unit run by Carol while he recovers and can then be released back to his troop. And hopefully the outcome of an urgent meeting we have set up with the Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate manager will lead to action that will effectively address the problem of monkeys being shot with pellet guns on the estate. Six pellets in the body are half-a-dozen more than is healthy for any monkey to have to live with!

NB. Four out of five episodes of the series, “Street Monkeys”, currently being screened on National Geographic Wildlife Channel, feature a number of rescues by, and interviews with, coordinators of the Monkey Helpline.

Injured male monkeys: To rescue or not!

Measured against the normally frenetic rate of rescues that have characterized the first seven months of this year, August, with the exception of the last three days, has actually been a relatively quiet month for the Monkey Helpline rescue team. Not that we have been idle – rescues have still kept us busy every day but a high number of calls were about male Vervets injured during fights, and most of these did not result in an attempt to capture of the animal concerned. What we do when we receive any call about a Vervet who might need rescuing, is ask the caller a number of pertinent questions. For example: Where exactly is the monkey? Is it an adult or baby monkey, and what is the size and gender of the monkey? Is the animal alone or is the troop around? What is it about the monkey that concerns the caller (if possible, describe the injury)? Is the monkey bleeding? Is the monkey alert? Is the monkey moving easily or with difficulty? Do there appear to be any broken limbs? How long has the monkey been around? Is the monkey reacting to any food being offered? … and so on! Obviously the range of questions is adapted according to the answers given by the caller, which also determine how we respond to the call.

In the case of male monkeys we can determine fairly accurately from the answers received whether the injury is from a fight with another monkey. If we decide that this is the case, and also feel that he can recover without our intervention, and that the injuries will not debilitate him to the extent that he cannot defend himself against, or if necessary escape from, attackers then we will usually not go out and attempt a rescue. We explain our reasoning to the caller and ensure that the caller understands and is comfortable with our decision. However, if necessary we will respond immediately and attempt to capture the animal. We realise that every time we capture an injured male Vervet that we might be neutralising the effort he has put into defending his position and status in the troop and territory. After all, he might be injured but he has been victorious, and then we come along, capture him and undo all his hard work. In his absence the defeated male can walk into the troop unopposed and possibly even have entrenched himself by the time the recovered male is released back to his troop. So an understanding of Vervet troop society and dynamics is a crucially important aspect of rescuing. The decision to remove, even for a very short time, any male monkey from his territory, is one not lightly taken!

In most cases we decide to go and view the situation for ourselves and only then make a decision to rescue or not after we have seen the animal concerned. Wherever possible we make use of our network of rescue assistants to either go and rescue the animal if they can, or assess its condition and advise us whether a rescue is necessary or not, or to monitor the monkey until we arrive to carry out the rescue.

Fortunately, most of the injured male monkeys called in during August will recover without our intervention. And it is always easier for us to make this judgement call when the monkey is a regular visitor to the caller’s home. Then we ask them to monitor the animal and notify us if he appears to be struggling to recover. We tell them what signs to look out for. If they do call us again out of concern or uncertainty about the animal, we will go and observe him and make our decision about whether or not to capture him. Alternatively we call back later in the day, or the next day, and for as long as we think it necessary to find out how the monkey is doing.

As for the last three days of August, read about it in the next posting!