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 steve@animalrightsafrica.org or carol@animalrightsafrica.org .

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.

VERVETS NEED YOUR HELP!

Not a day goes by that I am not blown away by the ignorance of people. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not maligning everyone who doesn’t know everything about all that is dear to my heart. The folk I am referring to are those geniuses who make absolute statements about things they actually know very little about, and, because this is the Monkey Helpline blog, it’s the Vervet monkeys who are, as usual, central to my stint on the soap box.

It seems that in a world of frustration at our inability to get on top of so many things that impact on our lives, such as essential service price hikes, crime, traffic jams caused by uncoordinated road-works or out-of-order traffic lights, politicians we don’t like, want or need, and so much more, we have to find something to vent on. And don’t Vervets make the perfect target for the disgruntled and frustrated!

In targeting Vervets, the accusers often make the most ridiculous statements as justification for their anti-Vervet attitudes and actions!

A real gem recently was a “knower-of-all-things” asking me if anyone was going to do “anything to deal with the monkey population explosion”. I told her in no uncertain terms that only an uninformed person could claim that there is a Vervet overpopulation. I tried to explain to her, in simple terms, the dynamics of Vervet monkey troops – the increases and decreases in the troop numbers from year to year, and why Vervet populations in urban and agricultural areas are undoubtedly on the decline because, in spite of an absence of so-called natural predators in the areas where these monkeys occur, the human predator is far more lethal than any natural predator could ever be. That Monkey Helpline does an average of two monkey rescues every day, 365 days a year, should tell you what a terrible situation Vervet monkeys face. And we see only the tip of the iceberg!

It amazes me that people who know little or nothing about natural processes and population dynamics, and even people who claim to be knowledgeable about such things, can make the most stupid statements regarding Vervet monkeys. And of course the number one gem of knowledge is this one about “overpopulation due to loss of natural predators”.

In the first place, how can anyone talk about an “overpopulation” if they haven’t the foggiest idea what a normal population size is? How often don’t we hear that “this morning we were invaded by a troop of monkeys at least 8, 12, or 15, or, heaven forbid, even 20 strong.” And then they add the cherry to the top, telling us that “every female is carrying a baby” as if that confirms the “breeding out of control”, whatever this might mean! In truth, a healthy Vervet troop size in urban areas should be 35 to 50 individuals. That we rarely see troops approaching 50 members is a clear sign that urban Vervets are in serious trouble!

And I was amused to learn that Vervet monkeys have “litters”, although how many on average per litter I was unable to establish, and that Vervets can “start having babies at the age of six months and that they are pregnant for six to eight weeks”. Fancy that! And all the while I thought that Vervets commonly have one baby, rarely twins, after a seven month pregnancy, and that female Vervets living freely usually only fall pregnant for the first time after they reach four years of age. Just goes to show that one is never too old to learn!

Fact is, there can’t be too many wild animals sharing our living space who are so misunderstood, maligned and persecuted as are Vervet monkeys. And because of this they bear the brunt of our actions that are generated by ignorance, intolerance and prejudice, with the result that they suffer terribly because of this, and so desperately need our understanding, tolerance, protection and care!

By now readers of this blog might have come to the conclusion that I am passionate about Veverts. I make no apologies for this, but then I am passionate about all animals, and in awe of nature generally. And I am horrified by what we humans have done to nature and all its components, including those that share with us so much of what makes us human and which has resulted in a “universal declaration of human rights”. Any sensitive person has only to devote a small amount of time and effort to getting to know about Vervets, who they are, why they are here in “our” space, and why they do the things that they do, and you would begin to ask yourself how we can allow them to be treated so badly – and, yes, this same line of reasoning applies to all animals, wild and domesticated, but as I stated at the beginning of this post, this is the Monkey Helpline blog!

The real tragedy of the situation facing Vervet monkeys is that it is only a relatively small number of people who will deliberately harm them, and yet the actions of this small number of moral retrards can, and does, create hell on earth for the Vervets. They shoot, poison, trap, snare and imprison Vervets with heartless zest. This, on top of the unintentional death, injury and suffering caused to Vervets by motor vehicles, dogs, high voltage power-lines, razor wire and more, makes their experience of humans something they could definitely do without.

But our experience of Vervets could so easily be something really positive. We must debunk the myths that inform peoples’ prejudice against Vervets – they are not “vermin”; they are protected by provincial and national conservation and animal welfare legislation; they do not attack humans or pets unless severely provoked to protect themselves; they are not carriers of rabies (there has never been a recorded case of rabies in a Vervet in South Africa), and there is NO Vervet overpopulation. Take time to get to know them and you will be in awe of these little animals as they grace us with their presence.


There is much we can do to right the wrongs that so negatively affect the lives of Vervet monkeys every day. Monkey Helpline is at the forefront, with a number of other organisations and individuals, of the fight for Vervets. But we cannot do this without your help, and the help of everyone you know, and the help of everyone that they know, and so on. And the first and easiest action you can take to help us help Vervets is to join Monkey Helpline, or any other Vervet care organization. Monkey Helpline has no joining or membership fee. Your visible support is what the Vervets need. If every animal-caring person becomes a member of a monkey-caring organization we will carry an enormous body of public support with us as we seek to make this a better world for Vervets.

You can be a part of something seriously worthwhile. All it will cost you is the time it takes you to email us on falconsa@worldonline.co.za or steve@animalrightsafrica.org with your name, address and contact details. Type “Monkey Helpline membership” in the subject line!

Do it now!

Pics 1 down to 5:
1 – A juvenile Vervet monkey rescued by Monkey Helpline after being severely mauled during and intra-troop squabble. Many youngsters are killed under these circumstances, often caused by excess stress in a troop due to the persecution and habitat destruction Vervet troops are having to deal with daily. “Face”, as this young Vervet was named, was nursed back to health by Monkey Helpline rescuer, Carol Booth, even regaining the full use of her right eye. Once healthy, she was kindly given a safe and happy forever home with Shesh and Malcolm Roberts at the Tumbili Sanctuary near Pietermaritzburg.

2 – This beautiful young female Vervet monkey was shot and killed with a pellet gun after being knocked from a garden wall by a stone thrown at her by a construction worker who wanted to eat her. The owner of the house walked up to the disabled and screaming monkey and shot her. Charges have been laid in terms of both the Firearm Control Act and the Animal Protection Act.

3 – This handsome youg sub-adult Vervet monkey was caught in a snare in the affluent suburb of La Lucia outside Durban. Wherever building construction is taking place and Vervets are around, snaring is rife. Fortunately this monkey managed to brake the snare cable but was still at risk of dying from the injury it caused. Monkey Helpline trapped the monkey, and after our vet, Dr Kerry Easson, removed the snare and treated the injury, he was kept in a recovery cage in the Monkey Helpline “high-care” for two weeks then released back into his troop.

4 – Sadly this sixteen-week-old Vervet monkey was electrocuted on high voltage powerlines and was mercifully euthanised after being rescued by Monkey Helpline. It is a tragic fate that befalls numerous Vervet monkeys every year.

5 – Hard to believe that these two beautiful adult male Vervet monkeys were rescued by Monkey Helpline during two successive rescues on the same day. Both were in the advanced stages of tetanus infection and suffering the indescribable pain that characterises this infection. Both were taken to our vet, Dr Kerry Easson, and gently euthanised.

Monkeys in the news – again!

What follows formed the basis of a good article that recently appeared in the “Fever” news tabloid which is distributed free of charge to residents of the upper South Coast area of KwaZulu-Natal. The article sparked a good response from readers, most of which was positive and supportive of Monkey Helpline and the monkeys :-

Yesterday was a typical day for Monkey Helpline rescuers, Steve Smit and Carol Booth, and that two of their rescue calls were from the Amanzimtoti and Winklespruit area came as no surprise.

“We have come to expect that a disproportionately high number of monkeys in this area are victims of the deliberately cruel actions of people who are intolerant of monkeys and who believe that they can injure or kill monkeys with impunity”, said Steve.

“Our first rescue yesterday in Winklespruit was a mature adult male Vervet with severe bite wounds to his lower back and neck. These could have been the result of a fight with another male monkey. However, the injuries did not appear to be the cause of the monkey’s poor state of health and we suspect that x-rays will reveal one of more lead pellets that have been deliberately shot into the monkey as he moved around his territory”.

(Top pic shows Nico, as he was named by John from Winklespruit who kept an eye on this monkey until rescuers arrived to catch him, in a transport box en route to the vet for a check up. He is recovering well from the terrible wounds that were so infected he was dying from the toxins flooding through his body. Initially the wounds did not seem to be the main cause of his poor state, but as the infected wounds healed, it became obvious that they had indeed been the cause of his debilitated state.)

Steve says that over eighty percent of all the monkeys rescued by Monkey Helpline over the past number of years have got lead pellets lodged in various parts of their body. “Many of these monkeys were in the process of dying a slow and painful death and those who could not be saved by veterinary intervention had to be humanely euthanised. Shooting animals with a pellet gun is extremely cruel, unnecessary and illegal and we will lay charges against any person identified as discharging a pellet gun in a residential area, whether or not they are actually shooting at monkeys or any other animal. Discharging or even pointing a pellet gun in a residential area or anywhere that poses a danger to another person or property is illegal in terms of specific paragraphs of Section 120 of the Firearm Control Act, At 60 of 2000. Shooting an animal with a pellet gun is also an offence in terms of the Animal Protection Act”.

The second rescue yesterday was in the Amanzimtoti area in Hudd Road, Athlone Park, and sadly was a little female monkey only eighteen months only. “She had been shot into her head, the pellet smashing through her left eyebrow and lodging in her brain. She stumbled around for hours as her brain swelled and eventually she fell off a garden wall and thrashed about on the ground until she died”. The person who called Monkey Helpline to rescue the little monkey thought she had been poisoned, but as soon as Steve and Carol arrived on the scene they noticed the pellet wound to the monkey’s head. “She suffered terrible pain and anxiety before dying”, said Steve. “She tried to keep up with her troop as it moved along but became disorientated and lost her way. A neighbour said he had seen her in his garden earlier that day and realized that something was wrong with her, but she disappeared before he could phone for help”.

(Lower pic – Fifteen-year-old Shannon Wood, the schoolgirl pro-Vervet crusader, who helps out at the Monkey Helpline “high care” every spare moment she has, goes on rescues with us and also takes care of baby and “special care” Vervets, holds the little monkey who died horribly after being shot in Hudd Road, Amanzimtoti. She also sets up and manages our education table at the Essenwood Market every Saturday. She is one awesome little lady!)

Steve appealed to people having problems with the presence of monkeys to call Monkey Helpline for advice on how to deter them humanely. “We have helped thousands of people throughout KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere in South Africa who have had problems with the presence of monkeys, and those who say our advice does not work for them are in a minority who just don’t want to make the relatively small effort to put our suggestions into practice”.

At the time of the rescue in Hudd Road, Monkey Helpline volunteers leafleted the area with information about pellet gun cruelty and the legal consequences of discharging a pellet gun in a residential area. During this process the volunteers met a number of Athlone Park residents who were horrified about the shooting of the little monkey and undertook to report any person they saw using a pellet gun. “This was absolutely the same response we get wherever we go”, said Steve. “Only a small minority of people will deliberately resort to cruel and illegal methods to kill monkeys or chase them away from their property. With the support of law-abiding and caring people we will identify the shooters and we will have them prosecuted”.

Getting nespapers to run articles on Monkey helpline and the plight of Vervet monkeys in Southy Africa is critically important to the success of our efforts on behalf of these persecuted, maligned and misunderstood little animals. If readers of this post have any contacts in the media who they can get to write pro-monkey articles, then please get them to contact us!

Ever so “Flippin’ Cute”

Monkey Helpline blog readers will recall the little Vervet monkey that Carol was holding close in the blog posting of 16 August, “Monkeys still in harm’s way”. Since named “Flippin’ Cute”, because he is such an amazingly affable and bright little chap who holds no grudges against humans in spite of the despicable and cowardly way he has was attacked by some pellet gun-wielding low-life, he has made an amazing recovery.

In addition to being shot three times into his small body, of which at least one pellet went into his chest, he also sustained a badly fractured skull, probably after falling out of a tree or off a roof when he was shot (top pic shows just how swollen Flippin’ Cute’s eyes were after the trauma to his head).

Now both eyes are completely open and he has perfect vision (centre pic). There does not, at this stage appear to be any brain damage in spite of the severe concussion he suffered. He has an amazing appetite and already I am trying to convince Carol that he is a tad plump! And he is ever so cute!!

Evenings, whilst Carol is doing admin work he sits next to her on the table with a bowl of mixed food and chomps away to his heart’s content. And he watches TV with a real interest (bottom pic), responding to various things he sees, especially the animals on Animal Planet. He was terrified by a big dog even before it barked, watched curiously as a cat was treated by a vet, and then jumped into Carol’s arms and hid his face in her jersey when a turkey gobbled.

He is uncharacteristically afraid of other small monkeys and so he is being introduced slowly to two other monks of about the same age. It is important that he keeps in touch with his monkey-hood because we will make every effort to reunite him with his troop and his mother. If we don’t succeed in doing this he will be bonded into a troop of monkeys being prepared for rehabilitation and release. Sadly, at the time we rescued him he was alone with no other monkeys around, which means that his mother had abandoned him after he was injured, or else she too had been shot and was unable to stay with him. Quite possibly she is dead! Healthy mother Vervets don’t easily give up on their babies!!

Let’s hope we get to see Flippin’Cute running back into his mother’s arms – and Carol’s tears will be a mixture of sadness and joy!

Monkeys still in harms way

The reaction from blog readers to the previous blog about the pregnant female from Hillcrest who had to be euthanised because of the damage caused to her body and her unborn baby by the five lead pellets that had been shot into her was quite phenomenal. Readers were outraged by the brutality of the unwarranted attack on a pregnant monkey and all wanted to know if it would be possible to identify and prosecute the guilty person/persons.

Yes, it is possible to identify and prosecute the scum who would be so callously cruel to an innocent animal. But only if we get a sworn statement from an eye witness. If it seems that simple, it isn’t!

(Top pic – Carol gets up close and personal with a ten-month old baby Vervet, rescued this week, who already has three, yes three, pellets in his small body. And he also has a multi-fractured skull, hence the swollen shut eyes, after falling from a high tree as he tried to get away from whatever was causing the pain that was wracking his little frame.)

Every time we rescue a monkey who has been shot with a pellet gun we immediately flood the surrounding area with our “pellet gun leaflet”, which highlights the suffering associated with injuries caused by lead pellets, sets out the nature of the criminal offence of discharging a pellet gun in a residential area as contained in the relevant section and paragraphs of the Firearm Control Act, and calls on residents of the area to report any pellet gun abuse by neighbours to us.

Inevitably we get one of two responses, sometimes both:

– Defensive and indignant calls from individuals who think that they are the only one who found our leaflet in their post box and then claim that they are being set up by a neighbour who doesn’t like them. Often this call is from the very person who has already been pointed out to us by neighbours as the shooter!
– Animal-, even monkey- loving people who claim that one of their neighbours shoots at monkeys and other animals with a pellet gun.

Whichever response we get, it is usually pretty simple to identify who the shooter is. What isn’t that simple is convincing most witnesses to go to their local police station and make a sworn statement about what they have seen. But why this reticence to take the crucial step that will go a long way towards getting the suspect arrested and prosecuted?

(Second pic – A beautiful female Vervet, heavily pregnant, shot twice with a pellet gun this week. One pellet entered her abdomen and also killed her unborn baby. She suffered terribly and was found as she died, bent over with her face in her hands and the grimace etched on her face showing the excrutiating pain she endured for at least a week after being shot).

Mostly the answer from witnesses is that they don’t want to develop bad relations with the shooter (neighbour). Or, the shooter is “well connected” with the local police and will not get charged. Or, that the shooter is a “dangerous” person who might “do something” to the witness or even kill the witness’s own pets. And more…

Fact is that without the statement from the witness our hands, and those of the law enforcers, are tied. When we impress upon the witness how important their statement is, they usually say that they will definitely make a statement the next time they see the shooter using the pellet gun. That’s great, but then, as I point out, they must accept that they are also saying that another, and another, and another monkey will be shot before they are prepared to report the shooter and follow this up with a sworn statement to the police – just so that they don’t piss off their neighbour and spoil their “good” neighbour relationship. Get serious! Who in their right mind wants to have a good relationship with a moronic neighbour who you know is cruelly shooting monkeys and/or other animals? Would you want to maintain a “good” relationship with a neighbour who you discover is physically or sexually abusing children? I think not!

(Third pic – Grosvenor Girls’ High School learners, Louise Joubert (left) and Rachel Van Rensburg, hold the pregnant female Vervet, paralysed in her lower body, who they watched over and fed in the school grounds last week until Monkey Helpline arrived to rescue her).

But we don’t tell witnesses to have the guts to do the right thing. We realize that just phoning us is already a big step and we really appreciate this. We are very polite and we ask them nicely to think about it very carefully and then to let us know if they change their minds because they have it in their power to save more monkeys from horrible suffering and death.

(Bottom pic – The pregnant Vervet rescued from Gosvenor Girls’ High School, paralysed by a lead pellet that smashed her spine, about to be taken to the vet to be euthanised).
And in the meantime, whilst they are making up their minds, and maintaining good relationships with the monkey murdering neighbour, we carry on the grim task of picking up the dead and dying monkeys!

“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people are evil, but because of the people who do nothing about it”. Albert Einstein

And all those monkeys?

People often ask us what happens to the monkeys we rescue, which is a pretty intelligent question, sometimes! I mean, what would you think if these two crazy people arrived in response to your desperate phone call, jumped out of their vehicle brandishing nets and carrying a transport box, cornered a large, really fierce and angry looking male Vervet, then netted him, tossed him into the box and disappeared over the horizon?

Well, its not quite that bad and we don’t “toss” monkeys into boxes – well not that often, anyway, and lots of the monkeys we catch are not “large, really fierce and angry looking male Vervets”. Many are tiny, recently born babies who are the victims of various mishaps, even being shot with pellet guns. YES, pellet guns, even though you can hardly imagine that their can be such scum, sub-humans alive who would actually aim a pellet gun at a six week-old baby and shoot a pellet into its little body, smashing flesh and bone and ending a miracle that had only just begun!

But back to the question. If you consider that we rescue an average of three monkeys every two days, what do we do with all the monkeys?

Sadly, a lot of the monkeys we get called out to are dead by the time we get to them, or die en route to the vet, or are euthanised at the vet due to the severity of their injuries or illness, or die after treatment because their injury or illness was so bad. But many also survive. All sick or injured monkeys rescued by Monkey Helpline are taken to our vet, usually Dr Kerry Easson at Riverside Veterinary Clinic in Durban North, but if necessary also the great vets at Northdene vet clinic in Queensburgh or the Westville vet hospital in Westville, the wonderful after hours vets and nurses at the Sherwood emergency vet clinic in Sherwood, Durban, or Dr Mike Toft at the Waterfall vet clinic in Waterfall outside of Kloof and Hillcrest where they are.checked over and treated, then moved to Carol’s house in Westville, where I also happen to live, and are cared for by Carol until they are ready to be released back where they came from, moved to a rehabilitation centre or a sanctuary depending on whether they can be returned to freedom, or placed with a human surrogate mom if they are still young babies. Some are subsequently ehthanised if they do not respond positively to treatment, but this is a decision taken only after discussion between ourselves and the vet. In every decision made about the treatment and future of any monkey we rescue, quality of life is at the top of the list of considerations. It is always about the monkeys – never about us! And in making critical decisions about the treatment and future of any monkey we can always rely on the advice and support of our great friend and Monkey Helpline care and rehabilitation advisor, Karen Trendler and also veterinary primate specialist, Dr Bruce Peck.

Carol has set aside two adjacent rooms in her house that serve as the Monkey Helpline “high care”, and it is here that the monkeys spend time in cages suited to their condition until such time as they are ready to move on. Considering that some monkeys come into our care with broken limbs, severe concussion or other serious injuries or illness, their period of convalescence can be as much as six months, during which time they become unfit and suffer visible muscle atrophy. Before being released they need to exercise and regain fitness as well as balance and hand, foot and eye coordination. So they are first moved to large exercise cages in the garden where they spend at least two weeks getting survival fit and strong again. Then they are boxed and transported to a pre-selected release site and set free to meet whatever new challenges life throws at them. When monkeys are rescued by us and subsequently released by us, irrespective of how long we care for them, these are known as “hot releases”, because they don’t entail the lengthy rehabilitation process of release – this latter process, if done correctly, can take up to three years of bonding a “troop” of genetically unrelated monkeys and takes place at a registered rehabilitation centre and release site.

Female Vervet monkeys, unlike males, have to be released back into the troop of their birth. If released into the territory of another troop of Vervets they will be attacked and severely injured, often killed, by the resident females and their offspring. The reason for this is that female Vervets are fiercely protective of their territory which they never leave from birth till death – it is their ancestral home! The female Vervets you see at any given place are the descendents of female Vervets who lived in that territory many generations ago, over a period that could literally have spanned hundreds of years. The upshot of this female territoriality is that if for whatever reason a female cannot be released back to her troop, she must be placed at one of the rehabilitation facilities or at a sanctuary.

Any monkey not yet an adult and who cannot be released back to his/her troop of birth will be placed at a rehabilitation facility or sanctuary, with rehabilitation always the first prize.

As far as babies are concerned, their rescue, care and rehabilitation is so specific that I will do a separate blog just for them. Suffice to say that as soon as possible after being rescued, a baby monkey, and here we are talking about new-borns to three months old, is placed with a human surrogate mom, who is registered with the provincial conservation authority after successfully completing a two-day “early care” course and also being able to care for the babies in a manner prescribed in specially drafted Norms and Standards. As a rescue organization we are not ideally placed to care for baby Vervets so as soon as we are able to, immediately if possible, they are transferred to a surrogate mom. If injured in any way or ill, they remain with us in Carol’s care, or with Monkey Helpline baby care-giver and also registered surrogate mom, Jenny Morgans, until sufficiently recovered to be transferred. Tragically, so many babies were orphaned this past “baby-season”, that all the surrogate moms reached more than double the recommended capacity and Carol has ended up caring for eighteen babies after we had already transferred seventeen babies to surrogate moms. Jenny is fortunate to have the assistance of her daughter Angela and her housekeeper, Agnes, in caring for her monkey babies. Both are registered surrogate moms. A priceless bonus for both Jenny and Carol is fourteen-year-old Shannon Wood who spends every spare moment helping out with the monkeys. Shannon even has her own Monkey Helpline Facebook site. (Look up Shannon Wood on Facebook)

That’s it in a nutshell. But don’t forget that monkeys in captivity have to be fed, medicated when necessary, and their cages kept clean, by Carol and me! This starts at dawn every day and only ends when the monks go to sleep in the evening. When you are caring for anywhere between twenty and fifty monkeys – forty as I sit here typing – in a high care facility, a spare moment is an extremely rare commodity. It also means that everything other than catching monkeys, taking them to the vet, and caring for them as they recover, gets done between 10pm and 3am the following morning.
The pics you see here from top to bottom are just a few of the seriously injured monkeys we managed to rescue, treat and, after recovery, release to their troop, place in a rehabilitation programme or send to a sanctuary.
The little six-week old girl in the top pic was severely injured during a fight between her mother and other monkeys. With good veterinary care and Carol’s tlc she recovered to the point of being able to live amongst other monkeys at the Tumbili Sanctuary of Shesh and Dr Malcolm Roberts in Ashburton near Pietermaritzburg.
The second pic is a juvenile male Vervet who fell into an oil trap at a refinery south of Durban. We managed to clean all the oil off him and also out of his tummy and intestines and released him to his delighted mother two weeks later.
The third pic is of a sub-adult Vervet caught in a snare in the up-market suburb of La Lucia north of Durban. The snare was removed, the wounds sutured and he was released back to his troop two weeks later.
The large adult male in the bottom pic sustained horrendous injuries to his right thigh and calf muscles when he jumped from a tree, whilst defending his position as alpha male against a would-be challenger, and was impaled on a steel palisade fence. That he even survived was a miracle. Not only did he survive but, due to the awsome skills of Dr Max Taylor of the Northdene Vetereinary Clinic in Queensburgh, he regained almost full use of his leg and is now the alpha male of a troop being prepared for rehabilitation at the WATCH Vervet facility near Vryheid.
And now I can just see you all shedding tears for us. So sweet. Thank you!

Mignon

Baby Vervet Number Six – Mignon

Found lying on the ground in a complex by the gate security guard, little Mignon, as she was named, was a tiny premature baby who weighed only 200 grams. Most Vervet babies have a birth weight of between 300 and 400 grams, which tells you just how small she was. She was only a few hours old and the likely reason she was away from her mother is that she was too weak to hold on. Why she was born so prematurely we don’t know, but in all likelihood her mother was traumatized by an injury caused by a dog, car or pellet gun and was unable to keep her baby with her – presuming her mother was still alive, of course!

By the time Mignon was picked up and brought to us she had been bitten by ants and had hundreds of fly eggs on her. Very close to death she was cleaned and treated by Carol and Monkey Helpline surrogate mom, Jenny Morgans, then taken into 24 hour care by Carol. Too weak to suckle she had milk formula dripped into her mouth every fifteen minutes. Carol never put her down and even slept sitting up with little Mignon on her chest, feeling Carol’s warmth and protection and, most importantly, feeling the comfort of Carol’s heartbeat.

Once Mignon started digesting the milk formula, she immediately had an allergic reaction to it and angry red blotches appeared all over her small body. Exit the milk formula and to the rescue Angela, Jenny’s daughter who was still breast-feeding her own baby, little Andrew, and had milk to spare. Primate breast milk was just what Mignon needed and almost miraculously the red botches started clearing up and were gone within a day. With Angela expressing enough milk to provide for Mignon’s needs each day it appeared that the tiny Vervet had a more than even chance at survival. But this was not to be and on day four she started to slip visibly downhill. A desperate visit to our vet, Dr Kerry Easson, confirmed that she was showing signs of underdeveloped lung function, which results in a fluid/mucous build-up in the lungs A renewed, but very brief, interest in her bottle later in the evening had Carol ever hopeful that she would fight through this setback, but sadly this was not to be. Carol woke me at 2 in the morning to say that Mignon was in a coma. She looked so peacefully asleep as Carol held her close to her heart. But it was a sleep she would not wake up from.

We buried her, facing the rising sun, under a beautiful Quinine tree in the front garden.

How many deaths will it take till we know…

Its that time of the year again when pregnant Vervet mothers are getting to the end of their seven month pregnancy. It’s a bad time for them because they are that much slower than usual and so are more vulnerable than usual to being hit by motor cars as they cross roads, being caught by dogs as they pass through gardens or shot by sadistic, pellet gun wielding morons as they forage for food in residential areas.

In the past two weeks we have rescued a young adult, first-time pregnant, Vervet from other monkeys who had viciously attacked her over the course of a few days. Her injuries were bad but not life-threatening, if correctly treated – which was done by our vet, Dr Kerry Easson of Riverside Veterinary Clinic, Durban North. Unfortunately, this extremely stressed young monkey aborted her baby ten days after being rescued. It was so very sad watching her as she gently touched her perfect, but dead, baby lying in the bottom of her cage . After giving her a short while to deal with her loss, we removed both baby and afterbirth. Hopefully she will be able to enjoy the proud pleasure of her own baby next year.

Another female in an advanced stage of pregnancy was hit by a motor vehicle right outside Equitack, the animal feed store in Assagay where we buy our monkey nuts and bird food. The monkey-friendly staff there called us immediately and we managed to get the monkey to Kerry within an hour. Having taken a terrible blow to the head she was in a comatose state and had to be syringe fed. After being in our care for a few days she started a spontaneous abortion of her baby. Not having the conscious ability to deal with this process she was in danger of dying a slow and painful death. We rushed her to Kerry who, after establishing that the baby was definitely dead, did the necessary surgery (pic on the left) to try and save the mother’s life. Opening the blood-filled womb Kerry found a dead baby and a totally detached placenta – the result of a severe impact to her body as she was hit by the car. We were devastated when, after seeming to rally well after the operation, she died during the night.

Last Thursday we rescued a young female Vervet in Umhlanga – see our previous Blog post – who was inexplicably blind and in a total daze. She was also heavily pregnant! Within a day-and-a-half she fully regained sight and also her awareness, and she seems totally recovered from whatever afflicted her. Her unborn baby too seems fine and she is now very ready for release as is obvious from her constant attempts to escape from her holding cage. Our plans to release her this past Sunday came to nought as we were unable to find her troop and were very reluctant to release her to face the world without the support back-up of her troop-mates. Fortunately we met a security guard close by who knows her troop well. He is on duty six-to-six every day and will phone us as soon as he sees her troop. It will be good to have a happy ending to this rescue!

Not so good the ending to the rescue we were called out on this afternoon. A mature female Vervet in the late stages of pregnancy was hit by a car in Umhlanga Rocks Drive, La Lucia Ridge. We received a call from Paul who said his wife had phoned him to say she had seen a monkey run over and that she had stopped to try and prevent other cars running over it as it dragged itself to the centre island and into a flower bed. We aso got a call from Mark who said he had seen the same monkey dragging herself over the road with cars literally driving over her, their wheels just missing her.

Tragically she died in Carol’s arms at the vet clinic as Kerry, who was on leave for the day and had responded immediately to our call for help, arrived to attend to her. The baby in her womb was still alive but unable to survive such a premature entry into this world, so with heavy hearts we watched as Kerry euthanased it.

Right now this world really is not a good place for monkeys. Fortunately we get great support for our animal rescue work from the Caxton group of community newspapers, which is what happened last year when the Northglen News asked us for a piece on how people can help monkeys, and especially moms and babies at this time of the year. What we sent them follows and formed the basis of their published article on the subject. The same article would not be out of place or time if published by them, and other newspapers in the group, again this year:

“The following in response to your request:

This is the time of year when, after about 200 days of pregnancy, female Vervet monkeys are giving birth to their babies. It is a very dangerous time for mothers and babies. Because urban and industrial development has impacted so heavily on the monkeys’ habitat, they have to cross many roads and pass through gardens with vicious dogs just to be able to get around their territory looking for food very day. Heavily pregnant mothers, and mothers with babies, are at even greater risk because it is so much more difficult for them to cross roads quickly, scale high perimeter walls or climb into trees when they are trying to avoid motor cars or fierce dogs. “As a consequence, many of these pregnant females or mothers with newly born babies are hit by motor cars or caught by dogs, resulting in the death or serious injury of both the mother and baby, or premature birth and death of the baby” says Monkey Helpline rescuer and spokesperson, Carol Booth.

“This year the Monkey Helpline has rescued more injured, heavily pregnant female monkeys than at any time in the past,” says Booth. “In recent weeks our high care facility has resembled a maternity ward full of injured, pregnant mothers. The sad thing is that with the exception of only two out twelve, they have all lost their babies due to the trauma they have suffered.”

Booth also said that from the number of reports received from Monkey Helpline monitors and members of the public, there is also a higher than before number of mother monkeys carrying around dead babies. “This could be the result of the drought we have been experiencing as well as extremely high stress levels that the monkeys have to endure in the increasingly monkey-unfriendly world they are being forced to try and survive in.” she said.

Booth says that the Monkey Helpline has even rescued a female monkey whose baby was killed in her womb after it was hit by two pellets from a pellet gun. “She was very obviously pregnant and the callous person who shot her must have known this.”

Booth appealed to motorists to help pregnant monkeys by slowing down when they noticed monkeys crossing the roads and to be alert to the possibility of a young monkey darting across the road in an effort to catch up to its mother. And dog-owners should control or confine their dogs when the monkeys are around. “As we have said, the heavily pregnant and new mother monkeys are much slower than the other monkeys and they need any help we can spare.”

Lastly, even though the sight of monkeys carrying babies often evokes a response that “there are monkeys everywhere” and that a monkey “population explosion” is imminent, nothing could be further from the truth. Most baby monkeys, over seventy-five percent in fact, die before they reach adulthood. “Added to this devastating juvenile death rate is the high number of older monkeys being killed on our roads, killed by dogs, shot with pellet guns, caught in snares and traps, poisoned, etc, – we are definitely looking at the reality of urban monkey extinction in the not to distant future if things don’t improve drastically for the monkeys. No population of animals, no matter how adaptive to changing conditions, can survive such an indiscriminate onslaught. Over extended periods the Monkey Helpline rescues an average of three monkeys every two days. Over a recent two-day period we rescued eight injured and dying monkeys, half of whom were heavily pregnant mothers.”

Given our experiences over the past few weeks, things are not going to be any better for pregnant monkey moms, or new moms and babies, this year. I would so love to be wrong!!

Pellets, pellets and more pellets!

It is a fact that monkeys are going to be injured, even killed, in ways that we can have little control over. We do our best to minimise the harm that befalls these little animals whose continued presence in the urban environment is more a testimony to their survival skills and adaptability than it is the result of our efforts to protect them. But dogs, motor vehicles, power lines and razor wire will inevitibly take their toll of monkey lives and the best we can do is create an awareness that will see people having better control over their dogs, driving with care, insulating and excluding live power lines wherever possible, and being aware of the threat their security measures hold for all animals. This and much more we can continue to do, and where monkeys still fall victim to these dangers we can only hope and trust that someone with compassion and a sense of social responsibility will notice and call on us or any other capable entity to come to the rescue.

But when it comes to the death and suffering caused by the malicious intolerance of the pellet gun-wielding nazis who pollute our society with their toxic presence there can be no excuses, no exceptions and we must do everything in our power to identify and punish these morally retarded cretins.

Too often, almost daily in fact, we see the destructive effects of pellets in monkeys. It may come as a surprise to those who don’t read our leaflets and press articles, attend our talks, or visit our blog or our website, or engage us in discussion to discover that over eighty percent of the monkeys we rescue have been shot with pellets. We cannot publicise this fact often enough. So, as frequently as we are able to, we approach our contacts in the media for their assistance, and the following letter to the editor of a community newspaper was one such attempt to expose another case of gross cruelty and suffering:

“Dear Editor,

A few days ago we were called out to do a monkey rescue in Umhlanga. What we found when we arrived at the scene was a large, fully mature but very thin male Vervet who was obviously in severe pain and close to death.

We rushed him to Riverside Veterinary Clinic where X-rays revealed four lead pellets still lodged in his body. Humane euthanasia was the kindest option, and as we have done so often we watched silently as his body relaxed into instant and pain-free, but so unnecessary, death.

A post mortem showed the internal wounds and abscesses caused by the pellets. The vet confirmed that he must have endured terrible suffering!

Then it occurred to me that the heartless monster for, whom a bit of monkey mess in his home, or the loss of a few bananas, apples, or paw-paws, or the monkey “teasing” his dogs was so unbearable that it justified shooting the monkey with a pellet gun, was not actually getting the full benefit his efforts deserved. I mean, all he would get for his callous efforts would be the sight of a monkey leaping in pain and running from something it hadn’t actually seen. Surely scant pleasure for one so sadistically intolerant!

So I am making this offer to all the bloodthirsty bullies who think nothing of inflicting pain and suffering on the innocent monkeys who are trying to survive as best they can in an increasingly monkey-unfriendly world.

When next you shoot a monkey with a pellet gun, feel free to contact me and tell me about it. Then, if the monkey doesn’t die unnoticed and terrified under some bush, but is fortunate enough to be rescued by us, I can call you to come and inspect the effects of your ghastly deed. You would get so much more value for your efforts if you could witness the terrible suffering your victim has endured. You deserve to see what your pellets have done to the monkey’s internal organs – the adhesions which painfully inhibit breathing, digestion and even free movement as body parts grow onto each other in an effort to heal the damage caused by your pellet as it smashed through soft tissue spilling blood and digested food into the body cavity. You really need to see the laboured breathing of a monkey with its one lung collapsed and its chest slowly filling with its own blood until it suffocates or dies of heart-failure, all caused by your pellet.

Why shoot a monkey in the eye if you can’t watch it running blindly into trees and walls and under the wheels of motor cars? Why shoot a monkey in the leg, smashing its femur and ripping muscle from bone if you can’t watch it shivering in excruciating pain and unable to sleep as infection sets in and eventually kills it days, or even weeks, later? This and so much more you are missing out on!

My offer is sincere. Feel free to contact me and I promise to give you full value for your dastardly deed. Then I’ll do my darnedest to have you arrested, prosecuted and locked up. It’s the very least a scumbag like you deserves!

To those tolerant and caring people in Umhlanga north for whom the presence of monkeys is a source of pride and joy, and who had got used to the stately presence of the big male Vervet with the short tail who gently helped himself to the odd piece of food from your home and looked disdainfully down at your noisy dogs, you won’t see him any more. He is dead!

Yours faithfully”

And yes, many monkeys are also shot by chidren who don’t really understand the consequences of their actions, either because they have never been taught to respect and care for animals, or because they don’t understand what lethal power their pellet gun has, or because they have a parent or parents who actively encourage them to shoot monkeys and other animals. But we also know that many monkeys are shot by adults, mostly men, who do understand the consequences of shooting a monkey with a pellet gun. Adults who deliberately want to cause harm and even death. Truth is that once the pellet hits the monkey it makes no difference who squeezed the trigger or why!

And talking of who squeezed the trigger, so often we are asked if there is a pattern to where we find monkeys being shot with pellets. I suppose there is the belief that this kind of cruelty can only happen in specific communities. As can be seen from the preceding letter, affluent societies are not a cruety-free zone for monkeys. Just a few days ago we rescued a female monkey from Umhhlanga. She was unable to see and in in a complete daze. The vet’s preliminary check could find no sign of injury or physical trauma other than a slight discharge from one eye. Then an X-ray revealed eight lead pellets in her body, miracuously none of which had struck a vital organ, or the unborn baby in her womb. Inexplicably she regained her sight and full awareness within two days and later today will be released back where we found her. The point is that two of the monkeys specifically referred to in this blog were shot in an affluent area.

The female monkey on the right was shot many times, probably by a few differnt people over time, before we rescued her in Amanzimtoti. The day we caught her she had been shot just below the left eye and the pellet had exited above the eye, just missing blinding her totally. As the photo shows she has already lost her right eye to a pellet which, as seen in the X-ray photo below, is still embedded in the bone at the back of the eye socket.

All of which begs the question: “What are we doing about the pellet gun menace? “

Other than widely distributing our pellet gun leaflet which encourages people to identify their neighbours who are shooting at monkeys so that they can be charged and prosecuted, we highlight this problem during every talk we give. Already this year we have spoken at over seventy schools thereby diectly reaching tens of thousands of chidren who will hopefully carry our message back to their homes and the communities where they live. We have also spoken to numerous other groups. We are in contact with senior officials of the South African Police Service in an effort to get their assistance in having relevant sections of the Firearm Control Act enforced more effectively. We are producing an information leaflet which can be given to anyone purchasing a pellet gun. We are lobbying government for legislation that will provide for more stringent control on the sale and use of pellet guns. This, and everything else that comes to mind, we are doing!

September 12

Mid-morning and there is a call from Ann on the Bluff to tell us that after hearing the sound of an airgun, she rushed downstairs from her second floor flat to find a beautiful adult male Vervet lying dead just inside the boundary wall. We asked her to put the monkey in a bag until we can get there to assess the situation. Arriving at the scene we collect the body of the monkey from the gardener and on inspection we see that it has a very clearly identifiable pellet hole in the right side of the head, just in front of the ear, and that this is definitely the cause of death. Ann tells us the neighbour, an old man in his eighties, regularly hides amongst his banana trees and shoots at the monkeys and birds who visit his extensive, back-yard fruit and vegetable garden.

So off we went to visit the old man. After depositing the monkey on the dining room table I asked “Oom Johan”, as a middle-aged woman also living there called him, if he had shot any monkeys in the past hour or so. He was horrified that I should suspect him of having shot the monkey. He did however admit that he had, in the past hour or so, fired a pellet in the direction of the troop of monkeys that had been in his garden eating his bananas. But, he said, he had aimed at the wall behind the monkeys and that having served his country for five years during the Second World War there was no way that he would have shot a monkey if he had aimed at the wall! The connection here eludes me. Is there one?

Half an hour later we were no closer to convincing Oom Johan that his aim was not nearly as true as he liked to believe, and that the monkey lying dead on his dining room table had actually been killed by him.

We took the dead monkey to one of our vets for it to be X-rayed and to obtain a vet report confirming the cause of death. We intend pursuing a criminal prosecution of Oom Johan in terms of the relevant section of the Firearms Control Act which makes it a criminal offence to fire an air/pellet gun in a residential area, as well as in terms of the Animal Protection Act. There definitely was cruelty involved, as the monkey had lived long enough after being shot in the head to run approximately fifteen to twenty meters and clamber over a 1.8 meter high wall before dying.

It is a source of constant frustration to us that the callous individuals who shoot monkeys and also harm and kill them in other ways, do so with virtual impunity because the people who see them do so and report such incidents to us, are reluctant to go to a police station to make a statement under oath, partly out of fear and partly because the police are indifferent to their complaint and even refuse to take a statement from them. Without such a statement our hands are tied and monkeys will continue to suffer and die like this.

So, if you are aware of anyone shooting monkeys with a pellet gun, go to your local police station and insist that they take your statement under oath. Then contact the Monkey Helpline and we will advise you on further steps that must be taken to help us stop this ruthless maiming and killing of monkeys.