Baby births begin!!!

Yes, its definitely starting to happen. We have hardly seen a troop of Vervets these last few days that doesn’t have at least one proud mom with a tiny little black-furred baby clinging to her chest. Our friend Brenda, who lives in Manor Gardens, Durban emailed us some delightful news yesterday, and the relevant part of her email follows:

“I just wanted to pass on to you some very interesting “news.” I keep an eye on the monkeys that visit our garden in Manor Gardens and noticed that one of the pregnant females is exceptionally “large.” I suspected that she may be carrying twins but thought it was unlikely because as far as I know it is quite rare. Well to my surprise, when I saw her yesterday she has delivered her babies and she has had twins! She looked fine and the babies as well. She was struggling a little as she moved around because she was supporting them with her one front limb.

I have tried to find information about what the chance of survival is, for both the babies but have been unable to find anything conclusive. I will keep watching them and I hope that both will thrive.

By the way, I noticed that one of the other mothers has also given birth already. Two of the other younger females were already trying to carry it around!”

We replied to Brenda: “Very exciting that your monk has had twins. Not sure if the survival of both is well documented but I think it is very possible if she has good support from her offspring of three and four years ago, or maybe even another close female who doesn’t have a baby this year.”

We’ll definitely monitor those babies to see how the mom copes, and if necessary, and we are able to, we will intervene. Let’s hope for the best! We will try to get a photo of the mom and twins and share it with you in a future post.

It has actually been a relatively quiet week so far by our normal standards. No sight yet of the Umhlanga troop that we need to return our rescued, pregnant female to, but Vincent, our man on site, says he will call us the instant he sees them.

This past Monday morning we were called out by Sharon Pillay for a young monkey struck by a car in front of her house in Greenwood Park (Carol with monkey in pic below). We arrived at the scene to find that the year old youngster had stumbled to the neighours front gate and climbed halfway up, where we found her totally dazed and disorientated. We rushed her straight to Kerry, our vet who happened to be on her last day of leave. A thorough check revealed slight bleeding of the right upper lip, no broken teeth or bones and so Kerry suggested we take the baby home and wait for her to recover. By midday she was raring to go and we decided that we would attempt to find her troop the next day.

Tuesday came and went and no sign of the troop. Then today, whislt we were in the midst of cleaning cages and feeding the monkeys in our “high care”, Sharon, who had called us on Monday to rescue the little monkey, phoned to tell us excitedly that the troop was at her house. We covered the fifteen kilometers from our house to Sharon’s as fast as we legally (sort of) could, hoping like crazy that the monkeys wouldn’t leave before we arrived, something that can happen so easily when trying o return a monkey to its troop or to try and rescue an injured monkey.

Such excitement when we rounded the last bend and saw monkeys all over the place. Our little monkey’s response to having her box put out in full view of the other monkeys left us in no doubt as to where she wanted to be. I opened the box and grabbed her by the tail, gently lifting her out of the box whilst getting screamed at by her for my efforts, and had the troop leader run to within a meter of me threatening me with all sorts of violence if I did not release the youngster immediately. So, deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, I did exactly as he said and off the little monkey raced, delighted to be back with her kin.

There can be few better feelings than the successful reintroduction of a rescued little monkey to its troop. And to top it all, the entire process was watched over from an adjacent rooftop by two Vervet moms with brand new babies. Carol and I were elated. Things could have ended very differently for the little monkey. Had Sharon’s husband not seen the baby lying to the side of the road as he left for work, and asked Sharon to call for help, then another car might have run over her, someone else could have picked her up and carried her off, or a dog could have caught her as she tried to follow her troop. But none of that happened! We are seriously in need of a lot more happy endings like this one!

Yesterday also saw us make an early start for the two hour trip to Empangeni to talk to the pupils of the Zululand Remedial School. Aged between seven and fourteen years old the one hundred and ninety-two boys and girls and their teachers were a wonderfully attentive, responsive audience, making the journey there and back well worthwhile. They were very impressed when we told them at the start of the presentation that by the end of it they would know more about Vervet monkeys than almost all of the six billion other humans they share the planet with!

Sharing our love and respect for monkeys, other animals and the natural environment with as many school children and other groups as we are able to, is a vitally important art of what we do via the Monkey Helpline. Already this year we have spoken to tens of thousands of learners at more than seventy schools, handed out many thousands of information sheets, and initiated monkey “feeding stations” at four schools, amongst many other things.

We know that the future of urban Vervet monkeys lies in the hands of people who understand and respect them, and also know what to do or not to do when monkeys are around! Are you one of those people?


Tuesday, September 9 starts with phone calls to various people in Bloemfontein trying to find anyone who has any information about alleged plans to move little Adam, a 6 month-old Chacma baboon from the medical research laboratories at Free State University to a rehabilitation centre.

For those who don’t know, Adam was handed to the Free State conservation authorities a few months ago by some good folk who had found him abandoned and, after caring for him for a while, passed him on in the belief that he would be placed in a rehabilitation programme. How wrong they were!

The Free State conservation boffins, in their infinite wisdom and compassion, saw Adam as a threat to the genetic purity of their baboons and decided that he should become a research tool. They claimed that there was no rehabilitation programme that could take Adam. What utter nonsense!

A public outcry by animal-caring people country-wide has so far yielded no positive outcome for Adam, but yesterday (September 8) I was asked to enquire as to where Adam was being sent, as there was a rumour that he was finally destined for a recognized rehabilitation centre – somewhere! I quickly established that none of the baboon rehabilitation centres anywhere in South Africa had been issued a permit for Adam, though all said they would gladly accept him. Then after a number of phone calls to the Free State conservation department, and being shunted from pillar to post, the official in the permit issuing office, on my second phone call to her, crossed her heart and swore to die when telling me that Adam was still at Free State University and that no permit had been issued to transfer him anywhere else.

So, young Adam’s fate still hangs in the balance, or should I say “imbalance”, as the conservation officials play god with his precious life. But he has not been abandoned by decent caring people and the fight to rescue him continues.

Closer to home Carol was diarizing a talk on Vervet monkeys that we would be doing to a group of learners at a prestigious Durban school on September 18. These talks, accompanied by an attention-grabbing slide presentation, form a vitally important part of our broad-based education effort about monkeys, and we try to schedule as many talks as we are able to do.

Then at 10.55 the inevitable daily rescue callout. Acquaintance Mark, who works for a heavy transport company in Avoca, north of Durban, called for assistance with a badly injured young monkey near the truck wash-bay. We asked him to offer the monkey food in an effort to keep it from moving off in the time it would take us to reach him.

Unfortunately, by the time we reached the scene the monkey had moved through the 2.5 meter high razor wire security fence and was sitting just out of reach amongst the reeds that line a tributary of the Umgeni river. Wondering why companies waste so much money on this type of security fencing, I scaled the fence about ten meters away from the monkey and dropped down the other side, unharmed. The little monkey was so skittish that he crawled down into the layers of old and broken reeds before I could get anywhere near him and was just impossible to find. A half hour search yielded only nettle-stung legs and burning cuts from the sharp-edged reed leaves.

Not willing to give up on what we knew was a very badly injured and suffering animal, we placed food near the place where the monkey was first seen and asked Mark to call us when the monkey reappeared, which we knew – hoped – it would. We drove away with heavy hearts as we always do after not catching a monkey we have gone out to rescue. We fail so seldom that we haven’t got used to the horrible feeling. For the rest of the day, every time my phone rang we willed it to be Mark calling to tell us that the little monkey was back. Fate was not being kind to us – or to the desperately-in-need-of-being-rescued monkey. No phone call! We could only hope for better luck the next day…