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.

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!