Freedom

This posting is devoted to a few of the many positive outcomes of our efforts to help monkeys, and believe me, there are many. It is our optimism with every rescue we are called out to that there will be a happy ending, and for us that translates very simply to being able to release the rescued monkey back to where it was living with its troop before we captured it.

Unfortunately, the reality of monkey rescues is all too often sketched in blood on the stark canvas of human intolerance, cruelty, indifference and speciesism. And the upshot of this is that when we write our blog we are frequently angry, heartbroken, bewildered and frustrated. So, more often than not we find ourselves recounting the tragedies of our daily callouts, not because we thrive on doom and tragedy, but because we believe that unless the public knows exactly what is happening to monkeys in this increasingly monkey-unfriendly world, we won’t get the support we need to make a positive difference for monkeys and other animals who all share this fragile planet. Scattered throughout the dark pain and suffering there are bursts of light that recharge our emotional batteries and keep us going in the belief that every rescue has some good in it, even if that “good” is the humane taking of a tortured and doomed life. But, there are happy endings, inspirational endings, none more so than those recounted here.

During the third quarter of 2009 we rescued two adult male Vervets who had each suffered severe, life-threatening injury to their left leg (primates have arms and legs).

Accacia, the male rescued in Westville and named after the road where he was trapped, had an ugly, painful wound into his left ankle and was unable to use that leg at all.

Michael, rescued in Mkuhla Road, Glen Anil, had survived electrocution on municipal electricity supply lines but the severity of the damage to his lower left leg meant that it would only be a matter of time before he lost the damaged portion of the leg, which would include his left foot.

Both monkeys had contracted severe infection as a result of their injuries.

Our daily monkey dealings have shown us that there are many monkeys who have lost all or part of a limb and survived without the benefit of human intervention and the miracle of modern veterinary care. But we also know that many get infection in similar injuries and suffer terribly before they die. It is up to us to judge each case on its individual merits and, given the extensive rescue, treatment and care experience we have gained over the past fifteen years, to take the action we deem appropriate. So, both Accacia and Michael were trapped and taken to our vet for assessment and necessary treatment.

The vet decided that Accacia’s left leg should be amputated two-thirds up the thigh due to the physical damage and severe infection in both muscle and bone.

Michael’s electrocution-damaged lower leg shriveled and eventually dropped off. Fifteen-year old Monkey helpline volunteer, Shannon Wood, nearly fainted when she discovered Michael’s foot on the bottom of his cage when she was helping with cage-cleaning in our “monkey high- care”.

So now we had to adult male Vervets in our care, each having lost the use of their left leg. Initially we had been certain that both monkeys, each with only three fully functional limbs, would have a good quality of life in a local Vervet sanctuary while they were being assessed for possible release, but that option failed to materialize as the sanctuary had reached capacity and could not accommodate any more adult male Vervets. Direct release became the only option. After seven months with us, a number of those spent in our large outside exercise cages (top pic shows a fit looking Accacia in the exercise cage), both Accacia and Michael were the picture of health. They were fit and strong and able to use their one leg as if they still had two. But we only decided that release was worth the risks after lengthy consideration of all the possible outcomes and much pestering of our primate-knowledgeable friends for their thoughts and advice.

Came the day of the release and much excitement accompanied our catching and boxing of the two boys in preparation of transporting them to their respective places of original rescue capture.

We took Accacia to the very garden where we originally caught him, and the moment the box was opened he sped to freedom, no doubt convinced that the months of captivity spent plotting and planning his escape had suddenly and unexpectedly borne fruit (second from top pic shows Accacia racing back to freedom).

Michael’s release was equally heart-warming as he too sped from the box to freedom (bottom pic), a freedom which to him seemed momentarily to have been thwarted by a palisade fence he must have slipped through easily many times before. But months of five-star meals had added a few centimeters to his girth and he was brought to an abrupt, if very brief halt, before some strenuous wriggling got him through and he could lope casually into the adjacent, unfenced garden and climb easily to the top of a big tree from where he could survey a territory last seen seven months before, but still remembered in every minute detail.

We had told a number of monkey-friendly people living within the territories of Accacia and Michael about the release of the two and asked to be notified of any sightings. To our delight we received news of sightings within days and continue to receive frequent, positive feedback about the activities of both Michael and Accacia.

Three weeks after the release, we had the heart-stopping experience of having Accacia cross busy Blair Athol Road right in front of us in 5 ‘o clock traffic, only about one monkey minute from our house where he had spent the previous seven months. Could it be that he was missing the food and security of life with Carol in the Monkey helpline “high-care” and was trying to find his way back to us? That question was answered two days later when, going down to feed the monkeys in the outside enclosures, we found a contented looking Accacia on top of what had been his exercise cage (a jail by any other name…) for three months.

What would happen if he was confronted by adult males from our resident troop of Vervets? We got the answer a few days later when we watched, enthralled and in trepidation, as Accacia was challenged by one of the young adult males scouting a safe route for his fellow troop members. Being a young adult himself, Accacia survived the encounter and those that followed on subsequent days, having some ugly but not life threatening injuries inflicted on him by the bigger, stronger males.

A week after his first encounter with the troop he had challenged daily for three months from the safety of his cage, Accacia was accepted into the troop with which he now visits our garden daily ( pic third from top shows a comfortably free-again, banana-eating Accacia in our garden).

As for Michael, he continues to enjoy the company of the troop he was a part of when we rescued him. One lady called to say she sees him often and recently said he was “running like the wind in the tree tops”. A few weeks ago we received a rescue callout that took us to Huckleberry Road in Glen Anil. On our arrival I realized that we were just over the hill from where we had released Michael. I asked the caller if she had seen a male monkey with his left foot missing. She laughed and told us to go and look in the trees behind her house. There, sitting casually on a branch surrounded by a collection of other Vervets, was Michael. He was so well and looked as if he had never spent a day away from his troop. And we knew he had been unconditionally accepted back into his troop when the alpha male walked along the branch Michael was sitting on, brushed past him and continued on his way to another tree without giving Michael a second glance. I’m not ashamed to say I had a tear of joy trickle down my cheek and when I looked across at Carol she too was teary-eyed with happiness and relief at seeing Michael so comfortably back where he belongs.

To end on a humorous note, last week we received a call from an elderly lady living in Cypress Road, Glen Anil. She said she was terribly concerned about a badly injured monkey who was in her garden. I asked the usual questions and learnt that the entire troop was there in her garden, including a big male whose foot was missing. Would we please come and catch this poor “suffering” monkey, and would we have to euthanise him? I asked if it was his left foot missing? Yes! Was the “injured” leg bleeding? No! Other than the missing foot, did the monkey look healthy? Yes, very! This was definitely Michael, and the lady was delighted to have met him.

I started this blog post intending to share at least four happy releases with you, but the others will have to wait for another posting, otherwise I’ll be up till 3am again.

What the release of Michael and Accacia has taught us is that, given the chance, Vervets can survive, unconfined, with disabilities resulting from natural and man-made causes, even if those disabilities are as severe as the full or partial loss of a limb. We owe it to them to give them every chance to do so!

More Monkey Misery

Its been almost two months since my last blog posting and the time has really been filled with the usual number of monkey rescues, which included a capuchin and a White-eared Marmoset, as well as rescues of all kinds of other animals, including dogs, cats, chickens and numerous other birds and even a few snakes. But what I want to share with you in this posting are the experiences we had on three particular rescue call-outs very recently.

Wherever possible we make use of the printed media to publicise the incidents we deal with, firstly to educate the public about the consequences of human intolerance and cruelty towards animals, and secondly to try and get the message through to those morally retarded sub-humans who perpetrate acts of violence against animals, that they are under scrutiny and will be prosecuted at the first opportunity that arises

Information supplied to the Queensburgh News:

Over a year ago we, the Animal Rights Africa Monkey Helpline project, were called out to the Northdene home of a family who is visited daily by a troop of Vervet monkeys. They love the monkeys and routinely put out some food for them to forage as they pass through. The monkeys stop only for as long as it takes them to eat what is there, then they move on peacefully. They never attack the humans or their pets, don’t purposely trash the garden and certainly don’t do anything that would warrant any act of violence being directed at them by humans.

The reason we were called to this particular home was out of concern for a female monkey who had a wire snare tightly caught around her chest. Our efforts to trap her were unsuccessful because she was so nervous of humans that she would not go anywhere near the trap we set for her. Efforts to dart her proved just as frustrating because she would flee the moment she saw anything suspicious. Inhibited by the constriction of the snare that was now cutting into her flesh, she lost weight to the point where the snare was actually loose enough for her to work it down from her chest to her lower body, and from there it was just a question of time before she managed free herself from the snare completely. She even had a new baby this past baby season.

Then today, June 13, we received a phone call from a house just around the corner from where we had for so long tried to catch the snared monkey. Arriving there we found a mature adult female Vervet monkey lying in the garden, the rest of her troop in close attendance. We caught her easily as her futile efforts to escape using only her arms to drag herself along were pathetically hopeless. Our worst fears were confirmed when the vet’s x-rays showed that she had at least four lead pellets in her body and that the one had entered her right side and lodged in the spinal cord, paralyzing her lower body and leaving her in excruciating pain and fearfully confused at not being able to walk or climb or protect her six or seven month old baby. The baby had sat on a branch above her bravely threatening us as we caught her, but the little fellow’s threats had no effect on the humans he must have believed were going to take his mom off for a meal. What else could he expect of humans given the experiences he’d had of them so far during his short life.

And then, to add to the tragedy, we noticed the scar encircling her chest and back and we knew too that this was the female who had cheated death once before when she managed to get rid of the snare that threatened to choke her to death. This time she would not be so lucky and it was with heavy hearts that we witnessed her life slip gently away as the vet did the kindest thing she could and euthanised her. But spare a thought for the little orphan who will now have to make his way through every day, facing all the obstacles of monkey life in an urban area and hope to have an older brother, sister or aunt to snuggle close to at night!

We drove home vowing to continue our fight to protect these beautiful and fascinating little animals from the actions of those cruel and ignorant humans who so readily resort to violence against innocents who are unable to defend themselves. Over eighty percent of all monkeys rescued by the Monkey Helpline have got lead pellets lodged in their bodies!

Discharging a pellet gun in an urban area, ands even pointing a pellet gun at person or property, is an offence in terms of the Firearms Control Act. Report incidents of pellet gun crime to Monkey Helpline or your nearest SAPS or Metro Police station, and help us protect the monkeys and other animals, and even humans, against these bloodthirsty criminals.

Information supplied to the Northglen News:

This past week has again turned out to be a bad one for monkeys generally, and particularly for the monkeys living in the Durban North area.

Last week the Monkey Helpline was alerted to a monkey in Umgeni Heights with what appeared to be black oil covering her entire body. After a number of phone calls from concerned residents, Carol Booth and Steve Smit managed to trap the monkey and discovered that she was in fact covered in a dark varnish or bitumen type substance.

“This was obviously a deliberate act of cruelty by some uncaring person who must have trapped the monkey and then poured the varnish over her whilst she was confined in the trap”, said Carol. “The ignorance and antagonism of some anti-monkey people is unbelievable. They still believe in the old myth that by catching and painting a monkey, usually white, then releasing it, you will instill such fear in the remainder of the troop that they will run away and never be seen in the area again. It stems from the nineteenth century days of the boers who painted baboons and monkeys with white wash or wet them and threw bread flour all over them to keep them out of their crops. It did not work then and doesn’t work now. Every painted monkey we have rescued was found in their troop in the same area they were painted. It is just very cruel and very unnecessary”.

“What makes this particular case even worse is that this young female is pregnant with her first baby and unless we are able to clean her without removing too much hair she will have to stay with us in captivity and give birth to her baby here. This will cause her terrible stress and depending how long she is with us will determine how successfully she and her baby can be integrated back into their troop”.

In another case of blatant cruelty and in contravention of both the Firearm Control Act and the Animal Protection Act, a young monkey was injured after a rock was thrown at it from a residential property in Sunningdale by a construction worker. According to an eye witness the monkey fell to ground crying pitifully, with a number of other monkeys frantically trying to help it. After a while a person emerged from the property and took the still crying monkey inside. A short while later the sound of a pellet gun being discharged was heard and the monkey was silenced.

Monkey Helpline was called and managed to take possession of the monkey’s body. Steve said that when he first asked for the monkey’s body, the person who admitted to having killed the monkey said he had buried it. However when the body was brought out it was very obvious that it had not been buried. “It was wrapped in brown paper and was obviously destined for the pot or for muti use”, said Steve. “We could see that the monkey had been shot into the chest below the left arm and when I asked who had shot it the same person admitted to having done so. He claimed that ‘hundreds’ of monkeys had rampaged through the property and were attacking his dogs. Both dogs were right there and had not a mark on them”, said Steve.

Steve said that the incident had been reported to both the SPCA and the SAPS and that Monkey Helpline and the other witnesses to the incident would submit sworn statements in an effort to get the person who shot the monkey prosecuted. “We have x-rays of the body showing the pellet and are awaiting the vet’s report to substantiate our statements”.

Carol said that much antagonism and violence towards monkeys was based on ignorance or arrogance. “By educating people, and prosecuting where necessary, we hope to change this. People must realize that the troops of monkeys they see have lived here for hundreds of years and that our development has impacted adversely on them. They have a right to be here and we must learn how to live in harmony with them. This only requires a bit of tolerance and understanding on our part. Whilst many people fear being attacked by monkeys or catching rabies from them, these fears are unfounded. Monkeys only bite in extreme cases of provocation and only in self defense. Dogs only get bitten after they have attacked and caught a monkey. And as for rabies, there has never been a recorded case of a rabid monkey in South Africa. Monkeys can get rabies just like any other mammal, including humans, but they are not rabies carriers”.

Carol and Steve ask people to contact the Monkey Helpline if they are having problems with monkeys or know of anyone shooting them. “We do our best to provide practical, humane solutions and it is definitely not necessary to resort to cruelty when dealing with monkeys”, concluded Carol.

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!