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.