To kill a monkey

There has been another monkey shot by some low-life archer on the mid-South Coast in KZN. This time its a beautiful, mature female who is still nursing a baby. Today she is dead and her baby is an orphan!

Following is the media response by Carol and myself to the above-mentioned incident:

“Appalled but not surprised”, was the response of Steve Smit and Carol Booth, joint co-ordinators of KZN-based organization, Monkey Helpline.

On Sunday afternoon Steve and Carol were called out to attempt to capture the wounded female Vervet monkey after initial attempts to capture or dart her had failed. “When we arrived at the Edward Road residence in Pennington where the monkey had taken refuge, we found her to have come to rest high in the leafy canopy of a tall tree”, said Carol. She was totally inaccessible and seemed reluctant to move. She appeared to slip in and out of consciousness and was obviously in great pain and discomfort. The bloody wound in her left side showed clearly where the arrow had penetrated her body, and the front third of the arrow could be seen protruding from her rear, and then passing right through her tail. She had chewed through the rear, flighted portion of the arrow and only the front portion of the arrow remained in her body and protruding from her rear.”

“This is the second incident of a monkey being shot with an arrow in the Pennington-Scottburgh area in the past two months”, said Steve. “In both cases the shooter hit the target but failed to score a kill. It is obvious that these sadists are not nearly the accurate archers they fancy themselves to be, and I shudder to think of what is happening out there on the hunting farms where bow-hunters are killing animals for fun and out of reach of public scrutiny.”

Steve emphasizes that both of these recent arrow-shooting incidents involving monkeys are criminal acts that can be prosecuted in terms of the Animal Protection Act, Act 72 0f 1962. “We need to identify these criminals and have them arrested and prosecuted. We believe that both perpetrators can be identified and appeal to anyone with information to contact us in this regard. Handsome rewards are offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of one or both of the shooters.”

Carol believes that acts of cruelty such as these two arrow-shooting incidents are the work of a minority of uninformed, intolerant and downright cruel people who also believe that killing animals for entertainment is their divine right. “The fact that bow-hunting is growing in popularity is an indication that hunting is primarily a form of ego-boosting entertainment and that arguments claiming that it is an important conservation tool or a means of providing wholesome food are flawed at best and downright false at worst. Why don’t hunters just come out and say honestly that they hunt for fun and stop trying to justify their murderously bloody pastime as something honourable and necessary?”

Steve says he is amazed that there has been no public condemnation of these two arrow-shootings by any organized archery or bow-hunting body. “Their silence is deafening and I can only conclude that they have no problem with what has been done to these monkeys. One imagines that they would distance themselves from these acts of cruelty because their silence appears to condone what has happened. We have, however, been told by quite a few individual practitioners of archery that they condemn these shootings in the strongest terms. We have also been contacted by two bow hunters who say that these acts violate the ethics of bow-hunting and that they would like to see the perpetrators identified and prosecuted.”

In concluding, both Steve and Carol say that the many hours they spent watching the Pennington monkey whilst trying to lure her down to their trap, were emotionally traumatic. “We knew she was dying and we could not help her”, lamented Steve. “Her frequent cries and groans were horrible to hear but we knew that we had to stay with her, in spirit even if unable to alleviate her pain. Just before dark her baby started calling to her from the trees across the road, and we could only imagine how the emotional trauma of hearing her baby, yet knowing she did not have the strength to respond, must have tortured her mind. It certainly tortured ours and I so wished that the person who shot her could have been there to witness the terrible suffering resulting from his or her selfish and sadistic action. And he or she should have accompanied us to the vet the next morning when we picked her up at the bottom of the tree she had fallen from during the night, driven with us to the vet whilst she cried and whimpered in pain, and then watched as she died even as the vet, Dr Peter Biden, did all in his power to save her. By not witnessing the direct consequences of his or her actions, the shooter certainly got a raw deal considering all the time and money he or she invested in sourcing and procuring their weapon of cruel destruction!”

Steve and Carol stayed with the wounded monkey until a few hours after dark to ensure that she remained in the tree for the night and did not try to get back across the road into the bush where she would have died unseen. They returned to Pennington from Durban at 5am the next morning in order to be there at first light in the event that the monkey was strong enough to come down from the tree. Tragicly, she had fallen from the tree during the night and was found by residents Bill and Gay as she tried to crawl away. Bill thought she was dead and called to Carol who immediately saw that, though close to death, she was still alive. “She was hypothermic so I wrapped my warm jacket around her and kept her on my lap and legs as gently as I could whilst we raced to meet Dr Biden at his veterinary practice in Park Rynie”, said Carol. “Her cries and groans of pain were just too sad for words and I cried all the way to the vet. They were tears of both heartache and anger, both for her pain and suffering and for the fact that she had left behind a baby her so desperately needed her. That little orphan will have a tough time surviving without his or her mother!”

Top pic – The female monkey being made comfortable on Carol’s lap as we leave for the vet in an effort to save her or, at the very least, end her pain and suffering.

Middle pic – Half of the arrow that killed this beautiful, nursing mother Vervet. Now she is dead, and her pain is over!

Bottom pic – Steve looks on as Dr Peter Biden of the Scottburgh Veterinary Clinic in Park Rynie does all he can to save the female Vervet’s life. Sadly all in vain…

6 June 2011

Ends

MONKEY BUSINESS

This post is largely the article submitted to, and published in, three KZN community newspapers this past week. Its purpose is to explain the mating season behaviour currently prevalent in Vervet monkey troops, as adult males joust for position and beat off those opportunistic males who want access to females, and to emphasise that this behaviour, loud and apparently aggressive as it is, should be of no concern to humans. It is totally monkey focused:

Vervet monkey mating season is here and the result is that there is more squabbling, more fighting and lots of monkeys, particularly mature males, with severe injuries. The consequence of all of this is a huge amount of additional work for Monkey Helpline rescuers.

Steve Smit, joint co-ordinator with Carol Booth of Monkey Helpline, says that many people become very nervous of monkeys when they see the aggression and ugly injuries that are so prevalent during mating season. “But they have nothing to be concerned about”, says Steve. “All the aggression and posturing is amongst the monkeys themselves and does not translate into any aggression towards humans or their companion animals.”

Carol says that at this time of year Monkey Helpline experiences a marked increase in phone calls from concerned members of the public. “They see and hear the fighting, and also see badly injured and bleeding monkeys, and are concerned for the safety of their children and dogs, believing that they too are in danger of being attacked by an aggressive monkey. Fortunately the monkeys are only focused on the issues around mating and status within their troop and have no interest in humans or other animals.”

“We do also get lots of calls from people who are concerned about the well being of the injured monkeys”, says Steve. “ The injuries that some of the monkeys sustain can be extremely bad and to the untrained eye they look life threatening, which they often are. Interestingly enough, most people think that these monkeys have been shot or bitten by a dog. But monkey-inflicted injuries are easily recognized because their razor sharp teeth inflict injuries that resemble a scalpel cut. Once inflicted the injury often gapes and looks very bad. Our dilemma is deciding which calls we respond to and which we don’t. We can’t possibly go out and rescue every monkey who gets injured during these confrontations. We don’t have the capacity to do this, but it is also not always necessary. Monkeys have amazing healing capacity and recover from the most unbelievable injuries. However, we also know that an injury that looks minor can result in an infection, even tetanus, and cause the death of the monkey. It is never an easy decision to make but it is something we do every day. When someone phones in out of concern for a monkey, we have a series of pertinent questions we ask. Based on what we are told we then decide whether to go and carry out the rescue or not. If there is any doubt we will always go out to see for ourselves and then make the decision whether or not we’ll catch and treat the monkey.”

Carol believes that the mating season aggression between urban monkeys is far greater than amongst monkeys living in more natural areas. “Urban monkeys are under ongoing stress because of constant harassment. People don’t realize that monkeys are not invading our living space. Wherever we see them in our suburbs it is because they are in their traditional territory that has been drastically changed by human occupation and development. They have been here for many generations and have been subjected to increasing persecution, both deliberate and unintentional. Destruction of natural habitat, being chased and attacked by dogs, being shot at and chased from one property to the next by homeowners, having to cross dangerous roads, encountering razor wire and electric fencing, and much more has left urban Vervet monkeys on edge, and as a result of this the fights that take place between monkeys are more intense and frequent than would be the case if they were less stressed and had fewer dangers to deal with. Domestic dogs are predators and kill far more monkeys in urban areas than are killed by natural predators in the wild. In urban areas, as monkeys go about their daily foraging, they encounter a lethal predator in the form of a domestic dog virtually every fifteen to twenty meters. Their mortality rate is much higher than would be the case if they were living in a more natural environment, which is why urban troops of monkeys are much smaller than troops in the wild, and are in fact steadily decreasing in size from one year to the next.”

Steve and Carol are heartened by the fact that most people wish the monkeys no harm, and once their fears about monkeys have been allayed they become far more tolerant of the presence of these little animals. “Very few people actually wish monkeys any harm, and even fewer still will deliberately harm them”, says Carol. “We offer free advice to anyone who is having problems with monkeys around their home or at schools, etc, and we do many educational talks throughout the year. Monkeys are amazing animals and it takes just a little time and effort to ensure that they are not an intolerable nuisance. What monkeys need more than anything else is your understanding of who they are, why they behave the way they do, and what you should and shouldn’t do when they are around.”

Both Steve and Carol ask that members of the public understand that they are full-time volunteers doing this work out of love for monkeys and also to help people who are experiencing “problems” with the presence of monkeys.

“We get many calls every day for assistance and advice, or from people reporting an injured monkey, so we have to prioritize what we will deal with first”, says Carol. “Obviously someone needing advice or assistance is rarely, if ever, more important than a rescue, so if we must decide what to attend to first, the rescue wins hands down, and then we get to the advice or assistance as soon as we are able to after the rescue. Unfortunately it is not uncommon for callers to threaten to shoot or poison the monkeys if we don’t respond immediately in the way they expect. These callers get told in no uncertain terms what will happen to them if they do act on their threats. We also have to put up with verbal abuse and even threats of violence from people who believe that we are responsible for their problems with monkeys or because we don’t drop everything in order to give them our undivided attention. Many people erroneously believe that we are paid by the authorities to do this work and so expect us to provide an immediate service that is paid for by their taxes. Other than our personal funding of the Monkey Helpline, our only financial support comes in the form of small, random donations from the public.”

Pics top to bottom:

Top – A brave adult male Vervet monkey threatens Monkey Helpline rescuers as they pick up a twelve week old baby Vervet lying next to the road in Havenside, Chatsworth after being hit by a speeding car. He was supported by the mother Vervet and most of the troop members. When the healthy baby was returned to her mother at the same location two weeks later, this male was equally protective. On both occasions Carol was able to keep the entire troop of monkeys at bay simply by shaking and flicking a towel at them.

Middle – This adult male Vervet monkey spent eight months with Monkey Helpline recovering after the amputation of his left leg – carried out by veterinarian, Dr Kerry Easson – after a bad injury to his foot led to severe infection in much of the bone in that leg. He was released in Cowies Hill at the same place he was originally rescued, but three weeks later he was back on the very exercise cage in our garden where he had spent months regaining his strength and agility. He has become a fully integrated member of our free ranging wild troop and visits our home with them almost every day. He shows no resentment towards us for the months of incarceration, medication and injections we forced on him.

Bottom – Monkeys visiting our garden enjoy snacks in the company of a hen and an Egyptian goose. They are frequently joined by a number of our rescued cats who enjoy the brown bread we mix with the snacks given to the monkeys. Not once has there been any aggressive behaviour by the monkeys towards the birds or the cats!