Arriving home at 12.30 in the morning of Friday 29 after a round trip of almost 400 km down the KZN south coast to release a young monkey back into his troop at Mtwalume, and then on to Cragsview Wildcare Centre beyond Port Edward to hand over a young female Blue Duiker we had rescued from fencing the previous day, should have prepared us for the weekend that fate had planned for us. But it didn’t! Waking up just a few hours later, knowing we had to leave for a three day ARA workshop at Royal Natal National Park by 12.00 on the same day, we naively set about the chores we had set ourselves to do so that we could stick to our planned departure time. No such luck!
Just as Carol and I were starting to congratulate ourselves on our impeccable timing, something most people who know us would have laughed at, we got a call about a monkey struck by a car in Umdloti, 45 km away. After the usual questions about the condition of the monkey, the exact location, and the possibility of the caller containing the animal, we dropped everything and rushed out to “rescue” the unfortunate animal, who from the caller’s description was an adult female.
Traveling as fast as responsibly possible, we were on the M19 E when, believe it or not, a monkey was hit by a car just a few hundred meters ahead of us, and as usual the driver didn’t even slow down. Stopping as quickly as I could we still overshot the monkey by at least 200 meters. Reversing back up the freeway we stopped right opposite the monkey where it lay in the middle of the road. I just managed to retrieve her body before it was claimed by a person who had seen the incident whilst traveling in the opposite direction. He already had visions of a sumptious meal, but I had other visions and his angry expletives and and gestures fell on deaf ears as Carol took the monkey from me and cradled her limp body on her lap. Her eyes filled with tears as she felt the distressed movements of the doomed baby in the womb. The mother-to-be was dead and we coud do nothing to save he baby. The movements got weaker and weaker until the unborn baby too was dead.
We arrived in Umdloti only to be told by our caller that that monkey had died and so was left unwatched at the side of the road. We searched but could not find her and after watching the remainder of her troop move out of sight up the hill we had to accept that she was en route to becoming someone’s meal.
Midday, and two dead female Vervet monkeys plus one, and possible two, dead unborn babies. August was starting to look like a normal month! We stopped off at our vet to complete rescue/admission forms for the dead monkeys and to hand in the body of the female and her unborn baby for incineration.
Then home again to complete our chores and depart for the weekend workshop – we thought!!
Only 0ne-and-a-half hours past our planned departure time and we were still looking good for a daylight arrival in the mountains, 300 km away.
Then the third rescue call of the day! In Phoenix Industrial Park 30 km away, a steel factory manager had seen his security guard arrive at work and place a cardboard box in a corner. Telling the guard to open the box so he could check the contents, he saw a bloodied monkey who then jumped out of the box and stumbled into the factory. He cordoned off the area and called Monkey Helpline. We again dropped everything and rushed off to do the rescue. Anxiety at what we would find turned to frustration when we were diverted along an alternative, roundabout route due to an accident, but we finally arrived to find the monkey lying face down on the factory floor amidst laser cutting and welding of steel. Another adult female, also pregnant. Her injuries, a badly swollen right eye and deep lacerations to her neck and left shoulder, suggested she was our third motor vehicle accident victim of the day. Carol coud feel her baby moving so hopefully he/she would survive. As for the security guard who had picked her up and put her in the box thinking she as dead, he was livid at being deprived of his “food”! But our sympathies were with the monkey and her unborn baby…
In her almost comatose state, we left her with the vet and on enquiring later about her condition we learnt that after treatment she was still in a bad way but surviving. She stayed with the vet throughout the weekend receiving constant attention and treatment when necessary. Today we brought her home to our High Care facility wher Carol will take care of her and nurse her to recovery. If she does recover fully, we will try to establish the whereabouts of her troop so that hopefully she can be returned to her family. Failing this she will be moved into either a rehabilitation programme or to the Tumbili Primate Sanctuary near Pietermaritzburg.
Finally, daylight almost gone and we were on our way to the mountains. But fate had one more rescue planned for us. At 6.30 pm and one hour into our journey another phone call, our second from Umhloti for the day. A young monkey caught by the hind legs in a snare. Too far away to attend to it ouselves we called on our trusty network of rescue assistants. Fortunately, Doug, better known for his sterling cat trap and sterilise programme, was at our vet and responded immediately to our call for help. Accompanied by Dr Eason, he raced off to help the little monkey. Even more fortunately, monkey lovers, Garth and Mandy, living in the same road as our caller, rushed to the scene and retrieved the monkey. They took the little chap home from where Doug and Dr Easson collected him and took him back to the clinic for treatment.
No broken bones but the snare had caught him around both legs and caused severe injuries and cut off circulation. Dr Easson did what she could but told us she was not hopeful of saving his legs.
Back home in Westville after the weekend workshop our first destination was the Riverside Veterinary Clinic to check on the monkeys there. You already know about the adult female. The youngster, probably only about six months old and still suckling on his mother, looked a dejected sight with his two bandaged legs. We cleaned his cage, fed him and left him there overnight. This morning we returned and after being sedated Dr Easson unbandaged the legs. Our hearts sank as we saw the extent of the damage caused by the snare. Both legs were totaly dead and necrotic from just below the knee. We could save his life by amputating both lower legs, but life without the use of his legs woud be no life at all. Dr Easson did the kind thing and another monkey soul drifted away.
And then it was Saturday.
Before breakfast a friend from the Bluff called to say he had succeeded in catching an injured baby from the troop that frequents his house and garden. It had taken him two days to lure the baby into his house so that he coud catch him. The baby had severe bite-wounds to the head and was in desperate need of veterinary attention. We directed Ian to Dr Easson who was already at the clinic. She assessed the little monkey and found that he had abcesses into his open skull and was beyond recovery. Again she did the kind thing and another baby monkey soul was released.
Then at 10.30 am another rescue call. Another monkey hit by a motor car, this time on the M4 north of Umhlanga. Again a trusty rescue assistant rushed to the scene but to no avail. The monkey who the caller had seen crawling to the side of the road after being struck by the car, was nowhere to be found. Another monkey ending up in the pot? It was with mixed feeings that we learnt on Monday that the monkey, once again an adult female, had been picked up by good samaritan, Sue Friedman, and moved into the bushes a distance off the road. She was already dead but was struck by another car just as Sue arrived at the scene.
Sunday was no less unkind to the monkeys.
On our way home from the weekend workshop in the mountains we received our first rescue call at around midday. It was an adult male monkey moving very slowly with no obvious injuries but in serious trouble none-the-less. From the description of his behaviour he seemed either blind or delirious from infection. Too far to respond ourselves, we again called on a friend to help out. He hastened to the scene where the monkey had in the meantime crawled under a garden shed. Efforts to catch him were unsuccessful and the monkey, obviously not blind, escaped over the fence into a deep, densely vegetated gorge. Chances of him climbing back out of the gorge in his weak state are slim. But as always we remain hopeful.
We arrived home at 2.00 pm and were still unpacking when the second rescue call came in – another adult male monkey, this time with a snare around his neck. We were able to respond and arrived at the scene in Hillary, Durban just in time to see the injured monkey leading his troop across the road into the bushes. Fortunately Carol had brought along her bag of irresistible goodies and soon had the injured monkey eating a short distance away. A thin wire snare was very visible around his neck and a fair amount of blood around the neck area indicated that in struggling to break loose from the snare it had cut into his neck. We were unable to get close enough to him to attempt a net capture, but knowing that he visits the caller’s home most days with his troop to share the generous offerings on the bird table, we are confident that we will trap him in the next few days.
August now gone.