About a month ago, good friend Tracey Hartley, well known in the local animal care community for her efforts in helping feral cats, and equally well known for assisting in the finding of good homes for dogs and cats needing a “forever home”, responded to my call for assistance with a baby, eight month old Vervet monkey run over in Marine Drive, Umhlanga.

Tracey rushed to the scene of the accident, picked up the comatose baby whilst fending off the aggressively protective efforts of the mother Vervet monkey, and rushed to our vet where we met her.

Suffering severe concussion, a cracked scull and a severely damaged left eye, young Bazil, as the monk was named, came home to the awesome care of Carol and Jenny. Sadly Bazil lost the sight in his left eye (clearly visible in the pic of Bazil below) but made such good progress that last week, four weeks after Tracey rescued him, we took him back to Umhlanga in the hope of finding his troop and returning him to his mother.

Bazil’s alertness and interest in his surroundings when we arrived in Umhlanga convinced us that he knew we were near his home and his family. He had known the fresh smell of the sea from the day he was born.

We had no luck finding his troop and we were forced to take a very unhappy Bazil home with us. But before we left we chatted to the regular car guard at the spot where Bazil had been run over and he told us that Bazil’s troop visited the adjacent park every day. We left our card and he promised to call us the moment he next saw the troop.

Two days later we got the call and rushed down to Umhlanga with Bazil. The car guard, whose Rwandan name I could not for the life of me grasp, no matter how many times I asked him to repeat it, ran ahead of me to the other side of the park and pointed to the monkey footprints in the sand. Lots of footprints, but not a monkey in sight! In response to my question as to which way the monkeys were moving he pointed across the road and up the hill. Thanking him we started systematically driving up and down the roads in the area where we hoped to find Bazil’s troop. Luck was on our side and ten minutes later we encountered the lazily foraging troop not far from where we had started our search.

We followed our usual, very successful, process when attempting to return a young monkey to his/her troop and once convinced that this was definitely Bazil’s troop, and that his mother really wanted him back, we released him from the transport cage. Despite the fact that we have done countless returns like this, every one carries with it the same initial trepidation that turns to elation when the baby is back with its possesive mother

Just then I received another rescue call, unbelievably from a mere 500 meters away. I left Carol and Jenny monitoring Bazil’s return to his troop and rushed to the rescue. There I found a very sick-looking mature female Vervet with her seven-month-old youngster playing around her. She was obviously very ill and it took very little effort to catch her as she tried vainly to escape my net by running towards the edge of the roof as I chased after her.

Quickly back to Carol and Jenny who were happily videoing and photographing Bazil being groomed by some of his ‘Class of 2009’ troop-mates and an older sister. It took no time to convince them of the urgency with which we had to get the sick Vervet to our vet and they hastily bid Bazil goodbye and good luck and off we rushed. Tracey met us en route to the vet and confirmed that this monkey was from the small troop that visited her flat every day. Tracey knew this monkey well. The old girl had been coming to her for a snack every day for years, including that very morning.

At the vet we were horrified to see that the monkey was bleeding heavily from her side and was close to losing consciousness. “Horrified”, because when I had caught her there was not a drop of blood visible on her body and my initial, layman’s “diagnosis” was that she had been struck by a car or had possibly eaten some human medication or poison. I could almost say “no such luck”, because a quick check found two telltale small holes in her side and an x-ray confirmed that there were two pellets in her chest. Even though she was already close to death Kerry, our vet, decided to euthanise her – an act of kindness after such a vicious assault!

I called Tracey and gave her the sad news. She was devastated! Her letter that she subsequently sent to the local Northglen News, and which was published this week, follows below and says all that needs to be said:

“My husband and I were absolutely devastated to hear that our dear One Eye Mother monkey was shot yesterday and had to be euthanased. She was such a harmless old girl, she would visit our flat almost every day and would calmly sit and attend to all her children. Not only did she take excellent care of her own babies, but was also a foster Mom to two others, whose Mom’s had met their fates at the cruel hands of humans in the area! Steve from Monkey Helpline & I had been planning to catch her and sterilise her, as we felt that she was getting on in life and already had enough to deal with, without having to care for another new baby. Unfortunately she was senselessly murdered before we could put that plan into action. We will miss you One Eye, but I am sure that your little band of children who relied on you for love and protection, will miss you more!

Deeply saddened!
Tracey & Dalton Hartley

Nothing we do or achieve will bring back this old monkey, nor will it change the fact that she died frightened and in pain, distraught at being separated from her baby who, after seeing his dying mother caught and boxed, was last seen running terrified after the rest of the troop, some of whom were still visible in the distance. Besides showing us the pellets in her body, the x-ray also revealed that she was, to our relief, not pregnant!

If ever we find the morally retarded scumbag who so callously shot two pellets into that old Vervet, we will make every effort to have him arrested, charged and punished to the full extent that the law permits. And hopefully, like the idiot who was arrested last week after shooting a “pet” baby Vervet in front of the children in whose home the little monkey was being kept, he will spend at least one night in jail.

If any good can come from the cruel death of this old Vervet, then it must be that we are driven to even greater effort to expose the horror of pellet gun related cruelty that is daily perpetrated against monkeys and other animals, and that our efforts result in more arrests and successful prosecutions of offenders, more stringent controls on the acquisition, ownership and use of pellet guns, and greater understanding on the part of the public about the dangers of pellet guns!