Another day, another monkey death!

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

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

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

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

Smit said that no person with even a smidgen of moral fiber in their body would shoot a monkey with a pellet gun. “It is without doubt a cruel and cowardly thing to do and people who would do this to a monkey would have no hesitation about shooting a neighbor’s cat or dog, or any bird or mongoose who ventured into, or close to, their property. This is clearly shown by the coward who shot the monkey who died in the Danville Road garden.”
Smit has appealed to Durban North residents to report anyone they know to be using a pellet gun to either shoot or frighten away monkeys, birds or other animals. “In terms of the Firearm Control Act it is an offence to discharge a pellet gun in a built up area, or anywhere there is a risk of injury or damage to a person or property. The only way we can stop these unjustifiable monkey shootings is for all responsible people to support our campaign on the Causes website, http://www.causes.com/causes/650090-ban-airguns-in-south-africa?template=cause_mailer%2Frecruitment&causes_ref=email . Join this Cause and you will help us destroy the scourge of pellet gun violence against innocent animals!”

Ends.

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

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

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

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

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

Win some! Lose some! Too many lost!

On a daily basis I am appalled by the callous indifference shown to Vervet monkeys by a small, morally dysfunctional group of people living in those residential areas also frequented by Vervet monkeys.

Recently a local newspaper published a number of letters from people antagonistically inclined towards the presence of monkeys around their homes. Fears about monkeys possibly attacking babies, spreading rabies and just being monkeys were graphically and emotively presented. This in spite of the fact that Monkey Helpline has for years been educating people regarding the truth about monkeys and debunking the myths that have lead some people to erroneously see them as vermin, carriers of rabies and being prone to attacking and severely injuring adults, children and dogs, even cats on the odd occasion!

Fact is that in KZN monkeys are NOT classified as “vermin” – they are protected nationally in terms of the Animal Protection Act, and provincially in terms of the KZN Nature Conservation Ordinance. They do NOT attack people or their pets, only biting when they are themselves attacked by dogs or if a person tries to catch or hurt a monkey. They are NOT carriers of rabies and there has NEVER been an officially recorded case of a rabid monkey in South Africa. There is NO monkey “over-population” or “population explosion” as so many uninformed people are quick to proclaim when calling for monkeys to be culled or captured and relocated. On the contrary, with so many urban monkeys dying daily from injuries sustained when hit by motor vehicles, attacked and bitten by dogs, shot with pellet guns, electrocuted on power lines, caught in razor wire, poisoned, trapped and snared, these deaths, including those of monkeys dying from injuries sustained during inter- and intra-troop fights which are particularly vicious due to the stress the monkeys are under because of persecution and habitat destruction, are far higher than any population can sustain and certainly far higher than they would suffer from natural predators.

As distressing as it is to deal with the daily consequences of violence against, and indifference to the needs of, monkeys it is also heartwarming and encouraging to know that there are far more people who care about monkeys and want to protect rather than harm them. Monkey-haters are a small, ethically retarded minority of the population but sadly their negative impact on the safety of monkeys is substantial. For example, this past week alone just in Hillcrest, pro-monkey residents assisted the Monkey helpline with rescuing three Vervet monkeys horribly injured after falling victim to human violence.

The first was a young male monkey caught in a snare set on a garden wall in the centre of residential Hillcrest. The snare, made of unraveled strands of bicycle brake cable, was set on top of a pre-cast wall used daily by a troop of monkeys. It was attached to a razor-wire bracket so that when the monkey was snared just above his left ankle, he also injured himself horribly on the razor-wire as he thrashed about trying to escape, even breaking some teeth on the razor-wire as he bit at this thing that was hurting him so much every time he moved (second pic down shows the vet removing a broken tooth from the monkey’s jaw). Fortunately, a neighbour saw him struggling and called the Monkey Helpline. We rescued him and with the excellent veterinary treatment received from our vet at Riverside Vet Clinic, Dr Kerry Easson, we will soon be able to free him back to his troop.

The second was a beautiful, mature adult female rescued from a residential complex, also in central residential Hillcrest. Monkey Helpline was called after a caring resident saw what she thought was a dead monkey lying on her lawn. As she approached the monkey she saw movement and realized it was still alive. We rushed the monkey to our vet where an x-ray revealed five pellets in her body (third pic down)). One had passed through her liver causing an enormous abscess which had burst a day or two earlier spewing lethal infection into her abdomen. In spite of a heroic effort by Kerry, which included major surgery to repair pellet damage and flush the infectious pus from her abdomen, she died shortly after she was taken off the operating table. To add to the tragedy was the discovery of a freshly dead, perfectly formed little baby in her womb. It had literally been poisoned to death by the noxious liver abscess (fourth pic down shows mom and unborn baby).

Third was a rear-old little monkey struck by a motor vehicle just a few hundred meters from where the shot female had been rescued the previous day. In spite of the fact that monkeys were visibly crossing the busy road, and responsible motorists were slowing down, it took just one uncaring and unfocussed idiot to race along and right over the young monkey, leaving it for dead in the road and continuing his journey without any concern for the life he had, by all appearances, just ended. Fortunately the incident was witnessed by one of the many monkey-caring families living in the Highway area. They stopped to move the “dead” monkey to the side of the road, as much for its dignity and not wanting to see it squashed by other vehicles as to ensure that more monkeys were not run over as they ran into the road frantically trying to coax their unmoving, bleeding troop-mate to follow them. The actions of these animal lovers actually saved the young monkey’s life because he was still very much alive though deeply unconscious and bleeding profusely from injuries to his lower lip and jaw. Again Kerry’s skill and dedication ensured the monkey’s survival and once his cuts and broken jaw are healed he will be returned to his troop.

These are just three of the many monkeys we have been called out to rescue this past week. I’ll update you on a few more of them in the next blog posting, but one thing that needs to be said is that as much as it is the dramatic rescue effort that ends with a monkey in our carry-box, or wrapped in a towel if it has died, that people notice and support, none of this would be possible were it not for all the amazing people who care enough to phone us when they see a monkey in distress. Without those many phone calls interrupting our lives twenty-four hours a day we would be doing normal day jobs, earning good salaries, having weekends off, going on holiday, and, heaven forbid, maybe even watching an entire Sharks game without having to rush off and rescue a monkey, or one of the many other animals that come our way. Yes, without your calls we would be doing all these things, and every year hundreds of monkeys would suffer or die without any chance of being saved. THANK YOU FOR CARING ENOUGH TO MAKE THAT CALL!

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.

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!

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.