September 8, 2008 – It really is frustrating and worrying when you know, as a rescuer, that there is an injured, sick or orphaned/abandoned animal out there that you have to catch, but you can’t find it or it hasn’t returned to the place where you have left the trap. This was the case with a male monkey with a wire snare around his neck that we mentioned in a previous posting titled, “Last three days of August.”
On the day we were called about this monkey, August 31, we wasted no time getting to the address in Hillary, Durban where the caller was watching him. As we arrived the snared monkey was already leading his troop towards their night-roosting clump of trees down in the valley. He was very wary of us and offered no chance for me to net him. Even Carol’s usually irresistible offering of peanuts and banana would not lure him closer. But we did see that the snare, made from a few strands of bicycle-cable, was tightly around his neck and needed to be removed. We would have to trap him!
With our trap in use elsewhere we were only able to drop it with the caller three days later, on September 3. Having been told by the caller that this monkey and his troop visited his home every day, and often twice a day, we were hopeful of catching him within a day or two.
No such luck! Expecting a call every day from the caller telling us that the monkey was in the trap, it was only on the sixth day that the call came – at six-thirty in the morning. Kids, half-dressed for school were rushed through breakfast and morning bathroom routine so fast what they never knew what hit them, were bundled into the car and off we rushed. Carol and I could not conceal our excitement and our ear-to-ear grins told it all.
Seeing a monkey in our trap with the door closed is a sight we will never get used to, so arriving at the site of the trapping and seeing the snare-impaired monkey sitting calmly eating the peanuts we had left for him was about as a good a start to our week as we could have wished for. In a jiffy we had him securely in our transport box and were just about to leave for the vet via the schools where the kids needed to be dropped when our departure was delayed by two dogs strolling down the centre of the road, seemingly oblivious to the life-threatening, lunatic drivers hell-bent on getting to work on time at all costs. Serious as this was, we could not suppress our laughter – a beautiful, full-grown St Bernard male following hopefully in the footsteps of an obviously “on heat” Maltese-cross female. Hope springs eternal… Anyway, we dodged and stopped the traffic, caught the dogs and locked them safely in the property where we had just collected the monkey. We then called the Durban SPCA who collected the dogs for safe-keeping until the owners could claim them. Back to monkey business.
We had just delivered the last of three kids to school – late – when another rescue call came in. This time from Kloof. The caller said that a female monkey who seemed to be in serious trouble with birth complications had made her way onto the verandah. Explaining how easily even “almost dead” monkeys can disappear, we asked the caller to keep a close eye on the monkey until we arrived there. Unfortunately the caller was phoning from work and had to then call home to ask someone there to watch the monkey.
So we were disappointed but not surprised to arrive at the scene only to find the monkey gone and the watcher saying, “but it was here crawling sowly down the steps only five minutes ago”. Do you know how far an “almost dead” monkey can crawl in “five minutes”, lady? Anyway, we searched everywhere in the lush, well-established garden and could not find the monkey. Twenty minutes later and I was round the back of the house searching under shrubs up against the boundary wall when anxious calls from Carol had me racing around to the front of the house. There, clinging to the top of the gate post was the monkey. She was very obviously in the process of trying to give birth, and just as obviously not succeeding in delivering her baby. She was in serious trouble and we had to get her to the vet asap. In no time at all she was in a transport box and our destination was Riverside Veterinary Clinic in Durban North, and Dr Kerry Easson.
Kerry responded immediately and after hasty but careful sedation, shaving and sterilizing, the monkey was on the operating table having an emergency ceasarian. Our shoulders slumped as the perfectly formed baby was lifted out of the uterus – lifeless. A little boy, his head had been crushed as birth contractions forced him into a pelvis he could not pass through because the umbilical cord had lethally wrapped around his one leg above the knee and he was being held back (photo on right).
Our attention then shifted to the very ill mom. She was exhausted, dehydrated and in severe pain from being in labour for at least a few days. Kerry cleaned, stitched and stapled her back together, gave her pain relief and antibiotics, and then all we could do was hope for the best. But she was alive and in good hands and that counted for a lot.
Next up was the guy with the snare. Some deft handwork and he started feeling the affects of the sedative that had been injected into his thigh. He was asleep in a few minutes.
Close inspection showed that the snare had been around his neck for quite some time, but except for a few centimeters where the skin had grown over the wire as it cut into the neck, the injury was relatively minor. Kerry removed the snare and stitched the worst part of the injury with dissolving suture material. After giving him pain relief and long-acting antibiotics, she said he could be released later that day after the effects of the sedative had worn off completely.
Leaving the female at Riverside to recover from the sedative and be watched over by Kerry for at least a day, and to start coming to terms with the tragic loss of the baby she had carried for seven months, we took the quickly-regaining consciousness male to our home-based high care facility for a few hours of recovery from sedation. Once he was sufficiently alert we have him a good meal, a drink and took him back to where we had trapped him. Carol’s efforts to get a photo of a monkey running out of the transport box produced a familiar result – nothing! Mostly, released monkeys don’t dawdle out of the box. A grey blur in the corner of the pic is about as good as it gets. This chap was no exception! He ran straight down a familiar path and climbed the tallest tree. We watched happily for a few minutes then left him scanning the surrounding area for sight or sound of his troop’s whereabouts.
As we drove home Carol and I spoke, as we do after every successful release, of the mixed emotions at seeing a monkey returned to his/her territory. Yes, we have rescued and treated and helped a sick or injured monkey back to health, but for how long? How long before the monkey is again in need of being rescued? Released yes, but only to once again run the lethal gauntlet of snares, traps, pellet guns, dogs, motor cars, power lines and transformers, razor wire, and malicious poisoning! Sadly, this is the tragic plight of the Vervet monkey in South Africa!