Monkey Helpline NEEDS YOU!

Its been a while since last I sat down in front of this computer to create a new blog post, primarily because we have been so busy rescuing and caring for Vervet Monkeys, even into the early hours of the morning, that I have been too tired to get my mind around drafting a post for this blog. So what has changed to get me in front of my computer putting on screen what you now have in front of you?

Simply, Monkey Helpline is in dire straits. Financially the burden has just become too much for Carol and I to carry on our own. Actually, I depleted my personal resources a few years ago and because of the 24/7 demands of rescuing and caring for the monkeys we care so much about, I have not been able to do any work that will replenish my bank account. To do this would mean dividing my time between unrelated but paying work and doing monkey rescues, care giving and education. “Well why not do this”, I hear you asking. My answer – rescues and caring for the monkeys we have rescued are, as I have already said, a 24/7 job. Unless, of course, I allocate a specific number of hours daily to rescues, care and education and also hold down a paying job so that any Monkey Helpline work that falls outside of those hours will have to, well, just wait.
Won’t that just go down well with a caring member of the public who calls about a monkey run over by a car and dragging its paralysed lower body as it tries too escape into the roadside bush. “You have two options”, I tell the caller. “I finish work at 4 pm, so if you could please just keep an eye on that monkey until I can get there, it will only be another three hours, I will rush over there as soon as I leave the office. Alternatively just leave the monkey and I’ll pop by after work to see if its still there. If it is still there I’ll pick it up and rush it to the vet, presuming its still alive.”
Fact is, we can only do this work if we are available every time we are called out to a rescue, doing caring and educating in the time between rescues and the vet.
Why then is Monkey Helpline in dire straits?
In a nutshell, we have outgrown ourselves. The more effective and successful we have become at rescuing monkeys, the more monkeys we take into our care, the more time we spend at the vet, the higher our vet bills, fuel costs, cell phone bills, food bill, and other related costs. Add to this that there is virtually no currently available rehabilitation or sanctuary outlet for any of the monkeys that come into our care. More rescues really do mean more expenses, less available time and a desperate need for funding from generous and reliable sources. A sad reality of life is that without funds our capacity to rescue and educate will grind to a halt!

For a number of years now Carol has unselfishly carried the lion’s share of the burden to keep Monkey Helpline delivering the rescue, care and education service for which it has become well known and highly respected. It would be folly for her to continue depleting her own resources to the point wher both she and I are destitute. This would have only one outcome and I don’t need to spell that out here!

So, what now? To give up on the monkeys would destroy us emotionally, a scenario too horrible to even contemplate. Our approximately 750 rescue callouts annually would be left to other animal care organisations to deal with, and with all due respect, they wouldn’t be able to successfully carry out more than a fraction of those. For the monkeys it would be a disaster and a tragedy, and for caring people who make the rescue calls it would be devastating.
But , you can help us to continue helping the monkeys. We are about to embark on a package of ambitious fundraising initiatives, included in which is an appeal for fundraisers who will initate fundraising projects for Monkey Helpline on a commission of total funds raised basis. Will all prospective fundraisers please step forward!!
Another reliable source of funds could be the recruitment of “sustainers”, namely people who commit to a debit order payment of R100 monthly to Monkey Helpline. Two hundred “sustainers” would generate R20 000 per month, a healthy portion of the approximately R30 000 it costs monthly to run Monkey Helpline at its current operating level. This figure would be much higher if Monkey Helpline carried the costs of water, electricity and part time labour currently also borne by Carol, who also makes her house and garden available to Monkey Helpline’s current operation at no cost.
We cannot carry on as things are right now. We have to raise the required funds and we must also expand to provide fully functional sanctuary and rehabilitation facilities. Whether or not we achieve these goals in the immediate future, and there is no alternative because as things are we have no medium or long term future, will determine if Monkey Helpline continues to exist. It has to be 24/7, 365 days a year, or nothing at all. If money is the root of all evil, it is also the food of all success. Without the necessary funding Monkey Helpline is doomed, and so are the monkeys! Monkey Helpline really does need you!!!

P.S. For all of you generous monkey-caring folk who are champing at the bit to contribute to Monkey Helpline, our banking details are as follows:

– Account name: Monkey Helpline
– Bank : Standard Bank
– Branch : Melville
– Account number: 081385439
– Branch code : 006105
– Type of account: Cheque
– Swift code: SBZAZAJJ

– Reference : Your cell phone number or email address

Pics – Top to bottom:

Top – Two baby Vervets rescued by monkey Helpline during this past “baby season” The little guy closest to surrogate mom, Jenny Morgans’, is Drew. He was, as far as we know the first baby rescued in KZN this past baby season – 10 August 2010. He was found in the middle of a service road at the Bluff military base in Durban, on his own, no mother or other monkeys in sight.

Middle – This little one-year old girl was shot into the side of her head and the lead airgun pellet has lodged at the back right inside her skull, hopefully causing minimal brain damage on its way. She is currently under veterinary care and being cared for at the Monkey Helpline high care facility.

Bottom: Monkeys foraging in dustbins and refuse bags put out for collection, incur the wrath of many. Monkey Helpline educates people about how they can humanely prevent monkeys from making this kind of nuisance of themselves.

Vervet Victims

Its already May and this has been a seriously busy year of rescues. Baby season which started in September has tested us like never before and, as you can see from the stats below, its literally been raining baby monkeys. But also monkeys with injuries of every other kind!

Every month Carol goes through our diary and vet records and collates all the information that enables us to produce stats like those for January 2010 that follow. Technical hassles have made it difficult to collate and present the stats for February through March, but they will be available shortly. In the meantime, read on and weep…

January 2010 statistics showing the details of Monkey Helpline rescue call-outs and the outcomes:

Rescue call-outs – 51

Survived – 12 (Includes 5 babies)
Dead (Euthanised, DOA, DAR, etc) – 39 (19 MVA, 8 shot, 6 dog bite, 3 monkey bites, 2 Tetanus, 1 old age)

Dead made up of – 12 adult females (1 firearm, 1 pellet gun, 1 monkey bite, 1 tetanus, 1 old age, 2 dog bite, 5 MVA); 9 adult males (1 tetanus, 3 pellet gun, 5 MVA); 9 youngsters (1 pellet gun, 1 monkey bite, 3 MVA, 4 dog bite); 9 babies (1 monkey bite, 6 MVA, 2 pellet gun)

Released from “high care” : 8

Sent to rehab (CROW) : 2

Injured monkeys monitored/medicated in situ : 6

Baby season 2009/2010:

Just for interest, the number of babies rescued and handed to surrogate moms by Monkey Helpline since 21 September 2009 and up to 10 February 2010, stands at 34, made up as follows:

– 3 to the Hamptons
– 2 to Joan Chalmers
– 5 to Sandy Burrell
– 7 to Jenny Morgans
– 16 to Carol Booth ( 7 died – 1 premature with lung complications, 2 organ failure, 1 hypothermic, 2 severe septicemia, 1 with injuries from being caught then dropped from high by a Yellowbill Kite)
– 1 with snared mother to Tumbili Sanctuary

Monkey Helpline also recommended and facilitated the direct transfer of 1 baby from Freeme Johannesburg to The Hamptons.

Another 4 were rescued by Monkey Helpline but then released back to mothers (2 caught in razor wire, 1 trapped under fallen bird bath, 1 MVA).

During the above period (21.9.09 to date) Monkey Helpline dealt with or was made aware of over 50 baby Vervets dead in situ (includes 9 dead listed for January 2010 but excludes babies who died with surrogate moms)

At the time of posting this blog the number of babies rescued by Monkey helpline since September 2009 stands at 50. Of these, five babies were reunited with their mothers. Details in next posting of statistics. Tragically sad as is the situation that brings every baby Vervet into our care, the rescue of two babies on consecutive days after their mothers were shot with pellets and had to be euthanised sits right up their with the saddest. One was shot in Westville on Christmas eve and the other was shot in Verulem on Christmas day!

But, what is going to happen to all the babies? We are five months away from the next baby season and already we have more babies and older monkeys than the system can accommodate as it currently functions. Rehabilitation centres are doing the best they can given the limitations imposed on them by lack of finances and other resources and also the conservation authorities. There is a dearth of rehabilitation sites, and Vervet monkeys just don’t feature on the radar of the conservation authorities.

Fact is that Vervets in KwaZul-Natal are in CRISIS!!!

This dilemma will be the topic of serious discussion in blogs to follow.

ONE MAN AND HIS MONKEY!

About two weeks ago I received a call from a friend of mine who works at the Pietermaritzburg SPCA. In her office was a young African man, Linda, who said he had a small, female Vervet monkey at home who was sick and he wanted, a), to have it treated at the SPCA and, b) to get a permit to keep her. My friend knew that if the monkey arrived at the SPCA the owner would be advised to hand her over to the SPCA, and as had happened to a similarly aged pet Vervet a few weeks previously, she would be euthanised. So she phoned and asked me to explain to Linda the procedure for having the Vervet permitted by the provincial conservation authorities.

She put Linda on the line and after spending a few minutes explaining to him that he would under no circumstances be issued a permit to keep the Vervet, that the Vervet would start showing aggressive behaviour that would result in him having to cage-confine her permanently, and that it was not in the Vervets best interests to be deprived the opportunity of being introduced to other Vervets under controlled conditions, he agreed to meet us the next day to hand the monkey into our care.

The next day, which was April 16, 2010, Carol and I met Linda at a prearranged time and place and drove him to his home in Thembalihle outside Pietermaritzburg. As we stopped outside his home, a young monkey tumbled over the door and came bouncing up the bank and onto the fence next to the gate to greet Linda. We guessed her age at about sixteen to eighteen months. Linda reached down and said, “Woza”, and she immediately clambered up his arm and snuggled into his neck. I think Carol and I both had a lump in our throats as we realized that this happiness would soon turn to sadness for both of them as we wrenched her away and left them both devastated. But isn’t that almost always the way it is when we keep wild animals as pets?

We took some photos of Linda and Bongo, as we learnt she had been named. Then as gently as I could I pried Bongo off Linda and wrapped her safely in a towel for Carol to hold as we drove away. Just before we left, Linda, with tears in his eyes, listening to Bongo’s cries of anguish and fear, asked one last time if I would promise to take good care of the little monkey. I gave my word, and at the same time an intense anger overwhelmed me as I visualized the tragic outcome for Bongo had Linda handed her into the “care” of the SPCA in Pietermaritzburg the day before, and the devastating heartbreak and sense of betrayal that would have flooded over Linda. I resolved to put extra effort into informing members of the public of the NSPCA policies relating to primates that are taken into the control of SPCA branches country-wide.

Once away from there we put Bongo into a transport box for both her and our comfort. It was then we realized why Linda had wanted to have her treated by a vet. She suddenly had a seizure which was preceded by screams of what must have been terror or pain and lay on the bottom of the box quivering. It took about five to ten minutes for her to recover sufficiently to sit up and then she kept up a constant chatter of anxiety. This was understandable considering that Linda and his family were her “troop” and being a juvenile, and a female at that, separation from her “troop” was a frightening experience experience.

Once at home we transferred Bongo from the transport box to a holding cage where she could see some of the other young monkeys in our care. It will take a while for her to relax and start feeling comfortable with us, but we are patient and prepared to give her all the time and care she needs, and hopefully she can soon be introduced to other ex-pet monkeys whose only future lies in a sanctuary. It is highly unlikely that Bongo will ever be released into the wild!

But how did Linda actually get Bongo?

Linda says that towards the end of 2008 he was living in Panorama outside Pietermaritzburg. He happened to pass some men who had cornered a mother monkey with her baby still clinging to her and who were throwing stones at the mother monkey trying to kill her so they could eat her. One of the stones knocked Bongo off her mother who managed to escape. Bongo was unconscious from the blow to her head and the men were about to toss her into the bush, saying she was too small for them to eat, when Linda asked them if he could have her.

For two days baby Bongo was in a coma, but then she started slowly regaining consciousness. Linda cared for her diligently, feeding her on human baby milk formula with a small feeding bottle he especially bought for her. She lived in his home as one of the family, loved and pampered by everyone in the household. Her favourite foods were banana, apple and pear.

On three separate occasions the wild monkeys that came around Linda’s home attacked and bit Bongo. One of these attacks was by a large, lone male and she was severely injured. But she learnt to hide in the house when the monkeys came by and Linda and family then moved to Thembalihle where there are no other monkeys. She was a familiar sight to the locals and every day the children living close by would come to visit and feed her. When I phoned Linda later that first evening to tell him that Bongo was safe and comfortable, he said that the children had just been to visit Bongo and were saddened to learn that she had been taken away by us.

The moment we drove away from Linda with Bongo wrapped in a towel and held against Carol’s chest, that little money started a journey that will see her become a real monkey, with real monkeys as her family and even though it is unlikely, though not impossible, that she will ever join a rehabilitation programme, she will live the best life possible in a sanctuary where she will be bonded with other Vervets who for various reasons cannot be released to the wild but who deserve to be given a chance at life!

PS. The National Council of SPCA’s has a policy which states that any indigenous primate, but particularly Vervet Monkeys and Baboons, that come into the hands of any SPCA in South Africa, and who cannot be released back to the wild within five days or be sent to an SPCA-accredited rehabilitation facility, MUST BE EUTHANISED at that SPCA or at the vet used by that SPCA. So, if you want to be sure that the monkey or baboon you have rescued or cared for is given the best chance of being properly rehabilitated or placed in a reputable sanctuary, don’t just presume that this will happen if you surrender the animal to your local SPCA. Rather contact the Monkey Helpline first and we will assist and advise you in order to ensure the most ethically acceptable outcome for the animal!

In a future blog posting I will unpack the NSPCA’s reasoning that led to its adoption of the policy that would have resulted in the euthanasia of Bongo had Linda surrendered her to the Pietermaritzburg SPCA!

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!