VERVETS NEED YOUR HELP!

Not a day goes by that I am not blown away by the ignorance of people. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not maligning everyone who doesn’t know everything about all that is dear to my heart. The folk I am referring to are those geniuses who make absolute statements about things they actually know very little about, and, because this is the Monkey Helpline blog, it’s the Vervet monkeys who are, as usual, central to my stint on the soap box.

It seems that in a world of frustration at our inability to get on top of so many things that impact on our lives, such as essential service price hikes, crime, traffic jams caused by uncoordinated road-works or out-of-order traffic lights, politicians we don’t like, want or need, and so much more, we have to find something to vent on. And don’t Vervets make the perfect target for the disgruntled and frustrated!

In targeting Vervets, the accusers often make the most ridiculous statements as justification for their anti-Vervet attitudes and actions!

A real gem recently was a “knower-of-all-things” asking me if anyone was going to do “anything to deal with the monkey population explosion”. I told her in no uncertain terms that only an uninformed person could claim that there is a Vervet overpopulation. I tried to explain to her, in simple terms, the dynamics of Vervet monkey troops – the increases and decreases in the troop numbers from year to year, and why Vervet populations in urban and agricultural areas are undoubtedly on the decline because, in spite of an absence of so-called natural predators in the areas where these monkeys occur, the human predator is far more lethal than any natural predator could ever be. That Monkey Helpline does an average of two monkey rescues every day, 365 days a year, should tell you what a terrible situation Vervet monkeys face. And we see only the tip of the iceberg!

It amazes me that people who know little or nothing about natural processes and population dynamics, and even people who claim to be knowledgeable about such things, can make the most stupid statements regarding Vervet monkeys. And of course the number one gem of knowledge is this one about “overpopulation due to loss of natural predators”.

In the first place, how can anyone talk about an “overpopulation” if they haven’t the foggiest idea what a normal population size is? How often don’t we hear that “this morning we were invaded by a troop of monkeys at least 8, 12, or 15, or, heaven forbid, even 20 strong.” And then they add the cherry to the top, telling us that “every female is carrying a baby” as if that confirms the “breeding out of control”, whatever this might mean! In truth, a healthy Vervet troop size in urban areas should be 35 to 50 individuals. That we rarely see troops approaching 50 members is a clear sign that urban Vervets are in serious trouble!

And I was amused to learn that Vervet monkeys have “litters”, although how many on average per litter I was unable to establish, and that Vervets can “start having babies at the age of six months and that they are pregnant for six to eight weeks”. Fancy that! And all the while I thought that Vervets commonly have one baby, rarely twins, after a seven month pregnancy, and that female Vervets living freely usually only fall pregnant for the first time after they reach four years of age. Just goes to show that one is never too old to learn!

Fact is, there can’t be too many wild animals sharing our living space who are so misunderstood, maligned and persecuted as are Vervet monkeys. And because of this they bear the brunt of our actions that are generated by ignorance, intolerance and prejudice, with the result that they suffer terribly because of this, and so desperately need our understanding, tolerance, protection and care!

By now readers of this blog might have come to the conclusion that I am passionate about Veverts. I make no apologies for this, but then I am passionate about all animals, and in awe of nature generally. And I am horrified by what we humans have done to nature and all its components, including those that share with us so much of what makes us human and which has resulted in a “universal declaration of human rights”. Any sensitive person has only to devote a small amount of time and effort to getting to know about Vervets, who they are, why they are here in “our” space, and why they do the things that they do, and you would begin to ask yourself how we can allow them to be treated so badly – and, yes, this same line of reasoning applies to all animals, wild and domesticated, but as I stated at the beginning of this post, this is the Monkey Helpline blog!

The real tragedy of the situation facing Vervet monkeys is that it is only a relatively small number of people who will deliberately harm them, and yet the actions of this small number of moral retrards can, and does, create hell on earth for the Vervets. They shoot, poison, trap, snare and imprison Vervets with heartless zest. This, on top of the unintentional death, injury and suffering caused to Vervets by motor vehicles, dogs, high voltage power-lines, razor wire and more, makes their experience of humans something they could definitely do without.

But our experience of Vervets could so easily be something really positive. We must debunk the myths that inform peoples’ prejudice against Vervets – they are not “vermin”; they are protected by provincial and national conservation and animal welfare legislation; they do not attack humans or pets unless severely provoked to protect themselves; they are not carriers of rabies (there has never been a recorded case of rabies in a Vervet in South Africa), and there is NO Vervet overpopulation. Take time to get to know them and you will be in awe of these little animals as they grace us with their presence.


There is much we can do to right the wrongs that so negatively affect the lives of Vervet monkeys every day. Monkey Helpline is at the forefront, with a number of other organisations and individuals, of the fight for Vervets. But we cannot do this without your help, and the help of everyone you know, and the help of everyone that they know, and so on. And the first and easiest action you can take to help us help Vervets is to join Monkey Helpline, or any other Vervet care organization. Monkey Helpline has no joining or membership fee. Your visible support is what the Vervets need. If every animal-caring person becomes a member of a monkey-caring organization we will carry an enormous body of public support with us as we seek to make this a better world for Vervets.

You can be a part of something seriously worthwhile. All it will cost you is the time it takes you to email us on falconsa@worldonline.co.za or steve@animalrightsafrica.org with your name, address and contact details. Type “Monkey Helpline membership” in the subject line!

Do it now!

Pics 1 down to 5:
1 – A juvenile Vervet monkey rescued by Monkey Helpline after being severely mauled during and intra-troop squabble. Many youngsters are killed under these circumstances, often caused by excess stress in a troop due to the persecution and habitat destruction Vervet troops are having to deal with daily. “Face”, as this young Vervet was named, was nursed back to health by Monkey Helpline rescuer, Carol Booth, even regaining the full use of her right eye. Once healthy, she was kindly given a safe and happy forever home with Shesh and Malcolm Roberts at the Tumbili Sanctuary near Pietermaritzburg.

2 – This beautiful young female Vervet monkey was shot and killed with a pellet gun after being knocked from a garden wall by a stone thrown at her by a construction worker who wanted to eat her. The owner of the house walked up to the disabled and screaming monkey and shot her. Charges have been laid in terms of both the Firearm Control Act and the Animal Protection Act.

3 – This handsome youg sub-adult Vervet monkey was caught in a snare in the affluent suburb of La Lucia outside Durban. Wherever building construction is taking place and Vervets are around, snaring is rife. Fortunately this monkey managed to brake the snare cable but was still at risk of dying from the injury it caused. Monkey Helpline trapped the monkey, and after our vet, Dr Kerry Easson, removed the snare and treated the injury, he was kept in a recovery cage in the Monkey Helpline “high-care” for two weeks then released back into his troop.

4 – Sadly this sixteen-week-old Vervet monkey was electrocuted on high voltage powerlines and was mercifully euthanised after being rescued by Monkey Helpline. It is a tragic fate that befalls numerous Vervet monkeys every year.

5 – Hard to believe that these two beautiful adult male Vervet monkeys were rescued by Monkey Helpline during two successive rescues on the same day. Both were in the advanced stages of tetanus infection and suffering the indescribable pain that characterises this infection. Both were taken to our vet, Dr Kerry Easson, and gently euthanised.

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!

Monkey Helpline update – July 21 to mid-August 2009

Every time I write a posting for this blog I am so enthused by the act of sharing with interested people all that which we deal with every day that I fully intend doing a daily posting so that every day’s activities are shared with you. But then the reality of what keeps us hectically busy each day kicks in and days, weeks and even a month pass before I get to sharing our trials and tribulations, joys and heartaches with you again. But right now, as I sit here typing, I am again enthused in exactly the same way so, come hell or high water, I will do another posting tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that, and … . We’ll see!

So what have Carol and I been up to since our last posting more than a month ago?

Well, what I can tell you is that our “high care” has never been so full, for a short while reaching forty-two monkeys in various states of physical healing. At present we have thirty-three monkeys in our care. During this time we transferred six monkeys to WATCH, the Vervet rehabilitation centre near Vryheid run by Bruce Cronk and Sandy Palm. Another twelve monkeys were transferred to The Hamptons Wild Care Center in Byrne Valley run by our friends James and Jan Hampton. These monkeys will form the core of the seed troop that James and Jan will build with the babies they receive from rescuers during this coming birthing season.

It really sounds terrible to say that we have dealt with the usual spate of injuries and deaths caused mostly by motor vehicles, dog attacks, pellet guns, electrocution, monkey fights, snares, razor wire and the rest, but that is the reality. This really is monkey hell and not much changes for the monkeys from one month to the next.

We rescued another juvenile monkey covered in paint, details contained in the following article written by us for the South Coast Sun newspaper, and published:

Horrible sights greet the Monkey Helpline rescuers as they go about the daily business of rescuing badly injured, sick or otherwise in desperate need of human help Vervet monkeys. And this past week has been no exception!

“Amongst the heart-breaking sights that have greeted us was that of a juvenile monkey in Athlone Park, Amanzimtoti covered in white acrylic PVA paint.,” said Monkey Helpline co-ordinator, Steve Smit. “Between November 2008 and January 2009 we rescued three painted monkeys from the same area. There is an old myth that if you catch a monkey and paint it white it will run back to its troop which in turn will run away from it and ultimately disappear over the horizon. Obviously some people in Athlone Park who are being troubled by monkeys believe this nonsense and have decided that this is the way to resolve their problem.”

“The first three monkeys were trapped and painted by the same person who we identified and have reported to the Amanzimtoti SAPS,” said Steve. We are awaiting the state prosecutor’s decision on prosecution.”

After three days of attempting to catch this latest victim of the “white paint myth”, Steve and fellow Monkey Helpline co-ordinator, Carol Booth, managed to rescue the little monkey after it was trapped in the house of the caring Athlone Park resident who had originally noticed the traumatized animal and reported it to the Monkey Helpline.

“Our efforts to trap the monkey were unsuccessful because every time it came near any food we put down the other monkeys would chase it away because of its unfamiliar appearance. It was badly traumatized due to constant harassment by fellow troop members and was getting really hungry,” Steve explained. “As with the previous three painted monkeys from the same area, this one was found right in the midst of its troop, which once again shows that the whole thing about painting monkeys to keep the troop away is a load of hogwash. In fact the only consequence is extreme cruelty which will result in prosecution if the culprit is caught. The Animal Protection Act makes provision for severe penalties for animal cruelty offenders if found guilty.”

Amazingly, during the second day’s efforts to catch the painted monkey, the rescuers were approached by a man who lived close by and asked what they were doing. “We told him we were trying to catch a monkey and he offered to catch one for us,” said Steve. “He said he had caught one just a day or two ago and painted it white before releasing it. I could hardly believe my ears and our luck. I pretended to doubt his ability to do this and asked him how he had managed to do so. He said I should accompany him into his property, which myself and fellow Monkey Helpline rescuer, Rhyan Rudman, did. This man, who identified himself as Jay, took us to an outside room and pointed to this as the place in which he had trapped the monkey. When I asked how had had actually restrained the monkey in order to paint it, he replied that he had thrown a loose carpet over the animal and held it like that whilst the white paint was poured over it. The carpet as well as the tin of paint had been left right there where the act of cruelty had taken place. There was also a lot of white paint on the ground as well as low down on the outside wall of the room. I had no doubt that this was exactly where the little monkey had been caught and painted.”

Steve said that he had already been to the Amanzimtoti police station and discussed this incident with the Senior Superintendent in charge. “We have been asked to provide sworn statements regarding this incident after which the Senior Superintendent will discuss the matter with the State Prosecutor with a view to prosecuting the offender. This is a blatant act of cruelty and we want an example made of this man. People need to know that cruelty to animals is unacceptable in a civilized society and that offenders will be punished to the full extent that the law permits.”

As for the little monkey, he will remain in the care of Steve and Carol, who run the Monkey Helpline “high care” at their home, until all the paint has been removed. Then he will be returned to his troop.

We rescued a sub-adult female Vervet on the Prince’s Grant Golf Estate who somehow got entangled in a fishing trace and had treble-hooks embedded in her mouth and right leg. The hooks were connected by nylon and trace-wire and even had a float attached. As the monkey moved around the hooks tore at her flesh causing sever injuries and infection. At one stage she actually carried the float in her hand as she moved around the golf estate. The day before we trapped her, the hooks must have been torn from her flesh after getting caught on vegetation as she ran through the bush, leaving ugly wounds.

Whilst in our care, and under veterinary treatment, she almost died from the infection caused by her injuries, but with the expert treatment by our dedicated vet, Dr Kerry Easson, and Carol’s tireless after-vet care, she made a full recovery and was released back to her troop on September 1, fittingly, International Primate Day!

Then there was the juvenile Vervet from Salt Rock with a nylon snare around her chest, trapped by a dedicated husband and wife team, Jane and Dirk, with a trap loaned from Primates Africa. We were asked by PA to remove the monkey from the trap, which we did. We then removed the nylon snare which had cut so deeply into the little monkey that she had to be taken to the vet to be cleaned and stitched. After ten days in the Monkey Helpline “high care” she was released back to her mother by Jane (pic on the right) and Dirk.

Sadly, our records for rescue call-outs for the past three months show just over one hundred and fifty dead monkeys – sixty-seven for June alone! Such carnage, yet we are still confronted daily by those intolerant, self-absorbed, small-minded idiots who insist that there is an overpopulation of monkeys and that they should be culled, “as was done in the good old days”! Well, lots of things that were done in “the good old days” are no longer permitted in the democratic, post-apartheid South Africa, but I guess some people never change.

That’s it for tonight. As promised, another posting will follow in the early, gravel-eyed hours of tomorrow!!

September 14 and 15

Sept 14 is another day of diversity which includes setting our trap in Belamont Gardens, Umhloti, for a young monkey (about the age of the monkey Carol is holding in this pic) with an exposed skull. We need to catch him or else the exposed bone will dry out and allow germs direct access to the brain – which will be fatal! Garth and Mandy who live in Belamont Gardens are very famiiar with this injured monkey and his troop. They will attempt the trapping.

Most of the day is taken up with non-monkey related rescues for the Animal Rights Africa project, Animal Rescues Unimited (ARU), also coordinated by Steve and Carol.

Sept 15 starts with a 6.30 rescue callout to Escombe in Queensburgh. An early morning walker has literally had a small monkey drop out of a tree onto the road in front of him after the thin branch it was clinging to, broke. He calls a friend, Santi, who happens to have our ARU project number after a cat rescue we did for her about two years ago. Santi describes the monkey’s condition to me, which doesn’t sound at all good, and I ask her to go and fetch it right away and keep it wrapped warmly till I get there. From her description of the monkey, I imagine it to be one of last season’s youngsters, about ten months old.

What an unexpected surprise when I arrive at the scene. Santi has placed the wrapped monkey in a spare room so that it cannot escape if it suddenly finds a burst of energy. But this monkey is going nowhere! He is a one-day old newborn, virtually frozen stiff and instinctively still clinging tightly to the piece of dried branch that he must have clung to all night after being separated from his mother the previous day. His sparse hair was no protection against the cold and how he was still alive after the cold night is anyone’s guess.

The best I can do for him is stick him under my t-shirt and hope my body warmth will help him. He is in desperate need of warming up quickly so I also turn up the cars heater to maximum and have to drive home feeling like I am in a sauna. A quick call to Carol has her waiting at the gate with the necessary warm-up goodies – covered hot water bottle and soft baby blanket. She does the necessary mothering whilst I call Jan and James Hampton, our surrogate parents of choice when it comes to caring for the newborn babies we rescue every year, and break the news to them that their first baby for the 2008/9 season is about to be delivered to them. They have successfully cared for scores of baby monkeys over many years and fortunately we will be seeing them in a few hours at a primate rehabilitation workshop we will all be attending.

By the time we hand over the baby to Jan, he has a full tummy and is already much stronger, and by the end of the workshop, during which he has been constantly mothered and bottle-fed by Jan, he has a healthy look about him. Baby Jordan, as Jan has named him after Carol’s son, is now in very good hands and we feel confident that he will survive.

During the day we receive a call from Dianne in Northdene, Queensburgh who tells us that one of the pregnant females in “her” troop has got a snare tightly encircling her chest just below her breasts. This is a dire predicament for this monkey to be in, especially as she will soon be nursing a baby. We have to trap her as soon as possible in order to remove the snare, hopefully before she gives birth! But by the time Dianne has gone back to see if she is still there, the troop has moved on. Dianne will phone the moment she sees the snared monkey again, hopefully very soon!

…of good things and bad!

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!

Last three days of August 2008!!

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.