Another day, another monkey death!

The posting below is an article written this week for the community newspaper, Northglen News.

“Durban North is once again the scene of a cowardly monkey shooting”, says Monkey Helpline rescuer, Steve Smit. “In spite of the exposure that recent monkey shootings in Durban North have had in the local community newspaper, the Northglen News, a stunning adult male Vervet Monkey was killed by two pellets shot into his chest. The first pellet must have incapacitated him immediately because the shooter was able to fire a second pellet into him. He fell into the neighbour’s Danville Road garden and died a short while later.”

“The monkey’s body was collected by a Monkey Helpline supporter who also lives in Danville Road, and taken to Dr Kerry Easson at Riverside Veterinary Clinic for a post mortem. She was able to ascertain that one of the pellets had passed through a number of vital organs, including one lung, and finally lodged in the monkey’s heart”, said Smit. “Dr Easson told me that the monkey had died almost instantly from massive bleeding into the chest cavity.”

“It concerns us that this monkey was shot just a stone’s throw away from where the previously reported monkey was shot in James Place, but it was definitely a different shooter. We can say this with confidence because we have received some promising leads regarding the James Place shooter, and we also know that the person who shot this adult male lives directly behind the Danville Road residence where the monkey died. In both cases we are consulting legal counsel with a view to laying charges with the South African Police Services.”

Smit said that no person with even a smidgen of moral fiber in their body would shoot a monkey with a pellet gun. “It is without doubt a cruel and cowardly thing to do and people who would do this to a monkey would have no hesitation about shooting a neighbor’s cat or dog, or any bird or mongoose who ventured into, or close to, their property. This is clearly shown by the coward who shot the monkey who died in the Danville Road garden.”
Smit has appealed to Durban North residents to report anyone they know to be using a pellet gun to either shoot or frighten away monkeys, birds or other animals. “In terms of the Firearm Control Act it is an offence to discharge a pellet gun in a built up area, or anywhere there is a risk of injury or damage to a person or property. The only way we can stop these unjustifiable monkey shootings is for all responsible people to support our campaign on the Causes website, . Join this Cause and you will help us destroy the scourge of pellet gun violence against innocent animals!”


PS. Tomorrow’s posting will deal with a small, ten week-old Vervet girl we were called out to rescue this morning in Hillcrest. We were told she had injuries to both an arm and a leg and was just limping along all on her own, not another monkey in sight. Now, any time a monkey this small has been left behind on her own you can be sure her mommy is dead. No mother monkey will leave her baby to fend for herself like this unless that mother is dead, and no baby monkey leaves her mother and goes off on her own unless her mother is dead. Even if her mother is incapacitated by injury or illness the baby will stay with her!

We managed to catch this baby, saw the infected injuries on her arm and leg and took her for veterinary treatment. Under sedation, closer inspection revealed a suspicious looking injury to the right side of her lower abdomen, so an x-ray was taken, and sure enough, lodged in her abdomen was a lead pellet. And to cap it all, another pellet was lodged in her left thigh. Yes, hard as it is to believe, there lives in Hillcrest, a human being of such low moral fiber, such cowardly dispositon, that he or she could see a tiny baby monkey, take aim at her with a pellet gun, and then shoot, not one, but two pellets into that little body!

If there is one single incident that could encapsulate the entire case against random, uncontrolled ownership of airguns (pellet guns), it must be this one.

In the next post you will read about the courage of little Ginger and how she is fighting to survive this despicable attack and the loss of her mother – and why we named her Ginger!


One thing about this business of monkey rescue is that you can be quite sure that you will constantly be challenged to do the almost impossible as a routine part of your daily rescue effort.
One such situation confronted us last Tuesday afternoon, July 12, when we responded to an impassioned plea for help from our veterinarian, Dr Kerry Easson.

Working in her Durban North garden on her day off, Kerry’s attention was drawn to a monkey’s agitated chattering beyond her front hedge. Curious, she went out into the road to see what all the fuss was about and saw an adult female Vervet monkey peering into the storm water drain in the centre of the t-junction intersection close by. Kerry went to the drain and peered through the circular, perforated cast-iron drain cover. She could hardly believe what she saw – a small baby Vervet monkey perched on the stepping rung near the top of the two-and-half meter deep manhole.

Totally flummoxed as to how the monkey had got there, Kerry did the first thing that came to mind – she called Monkey Helpline!

Carol and I jumped into our vehicle and rushed from Westville to Durban North as fast as we could considering we had to negotiate afternoon rush hour traffic made worse by faulty traffic lights and disorganized road works.

We arrived to find an agitated Kerry tapping her wrist watch at us as if to say, “what kept you?”, and a small crowd of curious onlookers and wannabe helpers. It was a relief to see Doug Fairall there. Doug is a friend and feral cat catcher supreme and together we had previously had experiences involving cats rescued from similar situations as this one we now faced with the little monkey.

One look at the tightly set, very heavy cast iron drain cover and we knew that our efforts would be wasted without the necessary heavy duty equipment which we were certain must be a normal part of the Metro water workers’ issued “tool box”.

But we decided to try and lift the lid ourselves before troubling the overworked Metro storm water standby team. Very soon we realized that we would have more success trying to lift the lid on South Africa’s arms deal corruption allegations. Desperate to get the monkey out so that we could reunite her with mommy Vervet who was anxiously waiting in a nearby tree top and keeping a protective eye on proceedings before the fading daylight forced her to follow her troop to their sleeping location, we decided to call out the relevant Metro work team. Calls to Metro water got no response other than unanswered ringing. Calls to the emergency services, however, got an immediate response and in no time a big, bright yellow Fire and Accident Emergency truck arrived with a friendly and willing emergency rescue team. Our joy was short lived when we realized that all they could offer was a bigger crow-bar than the one we had. Their best efforts were to no avail, proving the adage that “bigger isn’t always better” and so, sincerely apologetic at being unable to assist, they departed – with their crow-bar – and a promise to get hold of Metro storm water.

Regularly, as we tried to devise a plan to free the trapped monkey, we could see her small arms and hands stick up through the vents in the drain cover as if beckoning her mother to come and fetch her, and her frightened cries echoed upwards. As soon as it became dark the little monkey stopped calling for her mom and just sat hunched over in depressed acceptance of her fate. With all the banging and clanking, caused by our efforts to lift the drain cover, the little monkey never lifted her head, not even with the constant interference of torchlight being shone into the drain to see if she had moved into one of the connecting drain pipes to escape the noisy activity above her.

Hours, and many frustratingly unproductive phone calls, later we finally had the satisfaction of seeing the Metro Storm Water standby team arriving in their truck. But once again our hopes were dashed when they too offered a crow-bar as the tool of the moment. We could not believe that no special lifting device existed that would easily lift out the stubborn drain cover. So vociferously did we dismiss their offer of a crow bar that they offered to bring a “jack-hammer” to break out the entire cast iron drain top. Thanks, but no thanks! Imagine the terror in that small monkey sitting in the confines of a man hole with a jack-hammer beating the hell out of the road above.

Then sanity prevailed and the shift supervisor, now alerted to the goings on, agreed to come on site and offer the benefit of his experience. Even before arriving he authorized a crane truck to come on site and lift up the drain cover. As the crane truck arrived we knew that the little monkey would soon be safely out of that drain.

Half an hour later, it was already 7.30 pm, the crane lifted the drain cover out of the bed it had been so reluctant to leave. There had been a few frustrating moments when the steel rods, hooked into the drain cover and attached to the crane hook, bent open under strain as if made of plastic, but once these were replaced with heavy duty chains the drain cover came out with surprising ease.

And through all of this commotion the little monkey still huddled over as if by keeping her eyes closed and her back to the world above she would remain safe until her mom could rescue her in the morning. She was easily grabbed and passed into the safe and comforting arms of Carol, a full three-and-a-half hours after we first saw her frightened little face looking up at us from inside the drain. Only then did we realize how tiny she was, probably no older than six months, and covered in small cuts and healing injuries all over her little body.

For the next week or so the little monkey, named Kerry after our vet who first drew our attention to her plight, will stay in the Monkey Helpline “high care”. An on-site veterinary check-up showed that she had no physical injuries from her ordeal in the storm water drain but could not discount the possibility of an ailment that might have driven her into the road water run-off drain in the first place. Once Carol is happy that Kerry monkey is healthy and ready to be released, we’ll take her back to where we rescued her and try and reintroduce her to her mother.

Kerry monkey can owe her life to alertness of vet Kerry and the combined efforts and compassion of a whole bunch of people.

What a rescue!!

Pics – Top to bottom:

1 The two-and-half meter deep storm water drain out of which the baby monkey was rescued.

2 Carol takes a hands-on approach in affixing the chains that did the trick.

3 Newly rescued Kerry monkey cuddles safely iunto Carol

4 A relieved, but proud, rescue team with Dr Kerry Easson (green theatre pants left front) and Durban Metro supervisor, Ishen Sukai (extreme right). Ishen’s wife, Venesha, and young daughter, Shradda, came along to witness the operation that had called them all away from the comfort of home.

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


Don’t judge a book by it’s cover

As I write these posts I am always mindful of the need to present as much of the positive as is possible in a situation that is really dire as far as Vervet monkeys are concerned. Believe me, this is not an easy task, but in order to retain one’s sanity and be able to find the strength to get up each morning and face the tragedy that you know will hit you right between the eyes and without warning, you cling to the positives and use them as beacons of light as you navigate through the ever present darkness of pain and death that characterizes Vervet monkey rescue and care.

At Monkey Helpline we deal with over seven hundred rescue call-outs every year. As each rescue drama unfolds it is indelibly imprinted in your mind, and such is the effect on subconscious memory that hardly a night passes without a dramatic dream about Vervets. Hardly ever are these dreams pleasant!

And yet, as alluded to earlier, there are positives. I suppose the most pleasantly surprising positive, yet least dramatic, is finding out every day how many people actually love and care for Vervets, or are intrigued and fascinated by them. Everywhere we go we meet these people and they far outnumber the “I hate those invasive, dirty creatures”-brigade. Which is why Monkey Helpline has started on a membership drive calling on all fair-minded, caring and compassionate people to show visible support for the monkeys by becoming a member of Monkey Helpline (there is no membership or joining fee) or any other monkey-care organization. (See recent blog post – “Vervets need your help” – for details on how to become a member)
Now I have to share this with you. Often as we drive around doing a rescue, looking for a monkey, leafleting an area where there are suspected shooters or people are having so-called “monkey problems”, we see people in their cars or gardens who look for all the world as if they could be the shooter or monkey-hater. Just something about their face or demeanor! Well, as you have read in the most recent post prior to this one, a monkey was shot with a bow and arrow by some moral retard in Scottburgh South. In our efforts to locate and trap the injured monkey, we met Adri and Koos in whose garden the troop of monkeys containing the arrow-shot monkey spend time very day. So obviously we knew this would be an ideal place for our trap.
It was an absolute education spending that first afternoon with these two wonderful people in the hope that we would manage to trap Tweeter, as this monkey was known to them. There was this middle-aged couple surrounded by thirty-plus monkeys of all ages and genders, sharing out treats amongst the monkeys and interacting with each one individually as if he or she were a loved member of the family. Adri and Koos called each monkey by name, respected each one’s unique personality and knew who was who’s mother, child or sibling. And so much more!
But Adri and Koos are not unique. We meet good folk like them frequently. But what was unique was seeing Koos amongst the monkeys. Unique because if I had driven past Koos standing in his garden or in front of his house on the verge, I would definitely have made the assumption that here was undoubtedly, at best, a monkey hater or, at worst, a monkey shooter. Why? Well, if you met Koos you would understand why at first glance I would guess that Koos, a retired police dog handler, was a shooter and not a lover of monkeys. Which once again proves that appearances can be deceiving! Very deceiving! Far from hating monkeys, Koos loves them and I had this huge grin inside of me as I listened to Koos telling me how people need to catch a wake up and respect the fact that Vervets occupied the suburbs we now claim as our own, long before the first house or road was built there. Similar sentiments voiced by Adri served to confirm that for as long as these two Vervet monkey guardians reside in Scottburgh South, the monkey haters need to tread carefully. Hearing Koos talk to the monkeys in lyrical and loving tones, calling “his babies” by endearingly affectionate names, is really something special, and I shudder to think what side of Koos the shooter of Tweeter might experience if Koos gets to him before the police do!
So, if you ever happen to be in Scottburgh South, and you see a large, proudly moustached man with a troop of Vervets in close attendance, look and listen carefully, and you too will leave with a big grin inside of you and you will draw comfort from knowing that as long as he is there, that troop of Vervets is about as safe as a troop can be in a suburb that is also the home of at least one sick person who believes it is okay to shoot an arrow through a monkey’s body in a sadistic attempt to kill it!


Top pic – Female Vervet monkey, Mommy One-eye, with her most recent baby happily and safely enjoying a snack provided by Adri and Koos.

Bottom pic – Tweeter before the arrow was unexpectedly pulled from his body. Latest news from Adri and Koos today, 3 May, is that Tweeter still vists every day and is looking strong and healthy despite his brush with death.

Monkey shot with bow and arrow in Scottburgh South

This post starts with a letter sent to, and published in, the Mid-South Coast Mail on 13 April this year. The letter follows:

Dear Editor,

This is an urgent plea from Monkey Helpline to residents of Scottburgh South for assistance in
locating a critically injured adult male Vervet monkey.

Today, April 11, we were called to Ann Arbour Road where a resident had the horrifying experience of seeing this male monkey with a red and yellow, flighted arrow protruding from both sides of the body. The monkey was trying to drink water from her swimming pool. By the time we arrived in Scottburgh from Westville the monkey had moved off. After searching for a
while we sighted the monkey lying over a branch in a tree across the road.

In obvious pain the monkey would not respond to our attempts to lure him down to our trap and we had to think of other ways to capture him. At that point the only method of capture that might have been successful was through the use of a tranquilizing dart.

It took us over two and a half hours to locate a vet capable of darting the monkey and willing to assist us. Unfortunately just as the vet was preparing to fire the dart, the monkey, who hadn’t moved for over two hours, looked down, saw what was about to happen and fled through the trees. An exhaustive search for the monkey proved fruitless.

We appeal to anyone who sees this monkey to please call us on 0826594711 or 0824115444. We also appeal to anyone who might know the person who shot the monkey or is aware of a neighbor using a bow and arrow in that area to share this information with us.

A last word for the shooter; “If we do not catch this monkey soon, he will die a slow and agonizing death. So when you go to bed tonight imagine how you would feel if you were lying there with a spear stuck through your body, with no pain relief, no antibiotics, hungry, thirsty and unable to sleep because of the unrelenting pain wracking your body. You are undoubtedly a cruel and sadistic coward and we will find you and you will be prosecuted ! “.

Update: Last weekend Tweeter, amazingly still alive and seemingly healthy, arrow protruding grotesquely through his body, entered a Monkey Helpline trap left at a home where he was loved, fed and relaxed. Unfortunately he managed to avoid being trapped but as he backed out of the trap the arrow got stuck in the side wire and pulled out of his body. The arrow remained in the trap but Tweeter is running free. He has been seen almost every day and still seems in good health. Expert veterinary opinion is that the arrow must have missed all vital organs and blood vessels and that there is a good chance that Tweeter will survive without veterinary intervention.
Today, 2 May, Monkey Helpline submitted the following article for publication in this week’s Mid-South Coast Mail:
Reward offered

A reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest and successful prosecution of the person or persons involved in the recent bow and arrow shooting of Tweeter, the Scottburgh South male Vervet monkey.

Monkey Helpline spokesperson, Steve Smit, says his organisation is offering a R1000 reward for any information that will enable the organization to seek justice for Tweeter and all the other monkeys who are constantly the victims of human acts of violence. “We are an NGO and entirely volunteer driven so do not have the resources to offer a larger reward. However, we believe that someone out their knows who shot Tweeter and is just waiting for the right moment or incentive to share that information with us so that charges can be laid in terms of the Animal Protection Act. Anyone wanting to increase the incentive by adding to the reward can contact this newspaper. The many Scottburgh South residents who know Tweeter for his gentle and relaxed demeanor are incensed by this senseless act of violence against him. Like us, they want to see the perpetrator arrested and charged ”.

Steve says that although the incidence of monkeys being shot at with pellet guns, catapults, paintball guns and bows results in a high number of injuries and death, the people doing this are relatively few in number. “Unfortunately, it takes only one heartless person or irresponsible child in your street, complex or neighbourhood to shoot at monkeys every time they are able to and the results are disastrous for the monkeys. The consequences are pain and tremendous suffering, and often a lingering death over weeks. Over eighty percent of all monkeys rescued by Monkey Helpline have got lead pellets in their bodies, a terrible statistic considering we do over seven hundred rescues every year”.

And the shooting of Tweeter with a bow and arrow was not an isolated incident. According to Steve he has been told of a number of monkeys found with arrows through their bodies, and has had personal experience of quite a few of them over the years. “Recently we trapped a male Vervet in Waterfall near Hillcrest with an arrow through his arm. The arrow smashed the bone just above the elbow joint and only excellent work by our vet, Dr Kerry Easson, saved his arm. The monkey was successfully released back to his troop two months later. We have even rescued a Hadeda with an arrow right through his body, and last year we found an arrow on our lawn next to our monkey exercise cages”.

“On another occasion, after we had completed an educational talk about monkeys at a primary school, we were approached by a pupil who tearfully told us that her dad had recently shot two monkeys in their Kloof garden with his bow and arrow. She said her dad had put down food on the lawn for the monkeys and whilst they were huddled around the food eating it, he shot at them. She said the arrow went through two of the monkeys and they both died. He just put them in a black bag and left them outside for the refuse collection. I asked if the monkeys were a problem to her family and she said they all loved the monkeys so she doesn’t know why her dad shot them”.

Steve appealed to people who are troubled by the presence of monkeys not to harm them, but rather to get in touch with Monkey Helpline for advice and assistance. “At worst monkeys can be a nuisance, but they are not dangerous and only very rarely, after extreme provocation have they been known to bite in self-defence. So, unless you literally grab hold of a monkey, or your dog catches and bites a monkey, you or your dog are not in any danger of being bitten”.

Monkey Helpline offers free advice on how to deal humanely with an unwanted monkey presence. “There is no reason to ever hurt a monkey”, says Steve. “And once we explain why monkeys are here, that there is no monkey overpopulation, that monkeys don’t attack and bite people or pets, that here has never been a recorded case of rabies in a Vervet monkey in South Africa and that monkeys are a very important part of our natural environment, most people have a better understanding of, and attitude towards, them. All it takes is a bit of tolerance and understanding. The monkeys were here long before we were, and they have nowhere else to go”!

Pics top down:

Top pic: Tweeter photographed a week after he was shot with the arrow, and a week before the arrow got stuck in the trap and pulled out of his body.

Middle pic: The trap with the arrow still in it after Tweeter managed to avoid getting caught.

Bottom pic: This stunning adult male Vervet shot though his arm by an unknown person in Waterfall near Hillcrest. The pic shows him under sedation at the veterinary clinic prior to removal of the arrow and pinning of the smashed bone.


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 or 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.

“Msinsi miracle”

It has been a while since my last posting, in spite of my good intention to do a posting at least every other day. So much has happened, and continues to happen, and every day brings a new set of highs and lows in our dealings with monkeys and the people who do good things for them, and also the people who do bad things to them.

So I’m going to start this year’s blog sequence with one of the good and happy things that we’ve experienced on the Monkey Helpline front line.

A real highlight was the recent release of Msinsi, a gentle adult male Vervet we rescued about eight months ago in Kloof. He had been terribly injured in a fight with another male Vervet and had lost most of the skin on his right leg. His other injuries, although severe, paled into insignificance by comparison to his damaged leg. Our vet, Dr Kerry Easson, of the Riverside Veterinary Clinic in Durban North, was undaunted. “We’ll do skin grafts and save this leg”, she said confidently! And save the leg she did!

Two pieces of skin were taken from Msinsi’s sides. The procedure for preparing the grafts and placing them strategically seemed so simple, yet it had to be done with surgical precision. The follow up treatment and management of the grafts on the healing leg required visits to the vet every week. At first Msinsi tolerated the bandages on his leg. He became so used to the trips to the vet that we only had to open the door of his clinic cage and he would, unprompted, climb into the transport crate.

Each week we waited in trepidation as Kerry removed the bandages and our joy was without bounds as the grafts were exposed and we could see how well they had taken, and week by week we marveled at the healing process happening miraculously before our eyes. The new skin growth and the ever-reducing wound area filled us with wonder.

But as time passed and Msinsi’s frustration at being confined grew ever more obvious, he started unraveling his bandages. Arriving home after a rescue or other activity to find him sitting there with his leg devoid of protective dressing was enough to challenge my cardiac fitness to the extreme. Each time we rushed him to Kerry for emergency repairs, and each time we left the clinic wondering how long these bandages would stand up to Msinsi’s self-destruct actions. The day that we had to literally turn around before we even got home, and go back to Kerry for running repairs was the day we knew that Kerry needed to come up with a new technique. Her thoughts precisely, and she sent me off to the late night pharmacy to buy super-glue. After re-dressing and bandaging the leg she then wrapped it in Elastoplast – her normal procedure – this time running a trail of super-glue along the entire length of the Elastoplast, around and around his leg from top to bottom, and it worked, much to Msinsi’s consternation! Needless to say this procedure was repeated each week until many weeks and tubes of super-glue later, Kerry decided that the time had come to allow Msinsi to take responsibility for the health of his leg and we took him home with a leg well on the way to healing, but unbandaged!

That lovely monkey was a model patient and never so much as picked at the new and healing skin. Unfortunately, by this stage his atrophied leg muscles were almost non-existent and the leg retracted and mostly useless. But as he spent time in the big outside exercise cage, and the weeks and months passed by, the use of his leg slowly improved to the point where he could grasp with his foot and even put the leg down every now and again as he ran and jumped. He even hold one banana under that foot whist he ate one and held a third in the other hand.

Then three weeks ago we took Msinsi back to the very garden where we had trapped him, and released him into the same tree where he had been sitting before Carol lured him down to our trap with bananas. Liz, the caring person who had originally called us to rescue Msinsi, her domestic worker and her grandchildren, watched as Msinsi leapt from the transport crate and climbed swiftly to the top of the tall tree. We left him there, wondering to ourselves what must be going through his mind as he surveyed the valley. Surely he must make some connection between the circumstances of his capture, the confinement and veterinary treatment which over months took away the pain and gave back the use of his leg, and ultimately us bringing him back and releasing him in a place he is familiar with. Will we ever know?

We asked Liz to let us know if she saw him and sure enough we got an sms a few days later saying that Msinsi was in her garden. We also got a few other calls from people in the area of his release telling us that a large male monkey with an “injured leg” was in the garden or on the roof of their house. When they described the leg we knew it was Msinsi. What a feeling of joy at being able to do for him what we had, with Kerry’s help, done! Absolutely indescribable!

And then yesterday this sms from Liz Ross: “Just seen Msinsi with a big troop. Had a lovely monkey show – they managed to get in and swipe three bananas and sweets!!! He sat on the fence looking long and hard at me while I talked to him…”

Sure makes it all worthwhile!!

Top pic – Msinsi’s damaged but healing leg
Second pic down – Msinsi with concerned look on his face en route to being released
Third pic down – Liz and her two grand children say “hi” to Msinsi just before his release
Bottom – Msinsi about to be released

Monkeys in the news – again!

What follows formed the basis of a good article that recently appeared in the “Fever” news tabloid which is distributed free of charge to residents of the upper South Coast area of KwaZulu-Natal. The article sparked a good response from readers, most of which was positive and supportive of Monkey Helpline and the monkeys :-

Yesterday was a typical day for Monkey Helpline rescuers, Steve Smit and Carol Booth, and that two of their rescue calls were from the Amanzimtoti and Winklespruit area came as no surprise.

“We have come to expect that a disproportionately high number of monkeys in this area are victims of the deliberately cruel actions of people who are intolerant of monkeys and who believe that they can injure or kill monkeys with impunity”, said Steve.

“Our first rescue yesterday in Winklespruit was a mature adult male Vervet with severe bite wounds to his lower back and neck. These could have been the result of a fight with another male monkey. However, the injuries did not appear to be the cause of the monkey’s poor state of health and we suspect that x-rays will reveal one of more lead pellets that have been deliberately shot into the monkey as he moved around his territory”.

(Top pic shows Nico, as he was named by John from Winklespruit who kept an eye on this monkey until rescuers arrived to catch him, in a transport box en route to the vet for a check up. He is recovering well from the terrible wounds that were so infected he was dying from the toxins flooding through his body. Initially the wounds did not seem to be the main cause of his poor state, but as the infected wounds healed, it became obvious that they had indeed been the cause of his debilitated state.)

Steve says that over eighty percent of all the monkeys rescued by Monkey Helpline over the past number of years have got lead pellets lodged in various parts of their body. “Many of these monkeys were in the process of dying a slow and painful death and those who could not be saved by veterinary intervention had to be humanely euthanised. Shooting animals with a pellet gun is extremely cruel, unnecessary and illegal and we will lay charges against any person identified as discharging a pellet gun in a residential area, whether or not they are actually shooting at monkeys or any other animal. Discharging or even pointing a pellet gun in a residential area or anywhere that poses a danger to another person or property is illegal in terms of specific paragraphs of Section 120 of the Firearm Control Act, At 60 of 2000. Shooting an animal with a pellet gun is also an offence in terms of the Animal Protection Act”.

The second rescue yesterday was in the Amanzimtoti area in Hudd Road, Athlone Park, and sadly was a little female monkey only eighteen months only. “She had been shot into her head, the pellet smashing through her left eyebrow and lodging in her brain. She stumbled around for hours as her brain swelled and eventually she fell off a garden wall and thrashed about on the ground until she died”. The person who called Monkey Helpline to rescue the little monkey thought she had been poisoned, but as soon as Steve and Carol arrived on the scene they noticed the pellet wound to the monkey’s head. “She suffered terrible pain and anxiety before dying”, said Steve. “She tried to keep up with her troop as it moved along but became disorientated and lost her way. A neighbour said he had seen her in his garden earlier that day and realized that something was wrong with her, but she disappeared before he could phone for help”.

(Lower pic – Fifteen-year-old Shannon Wood, the schoolgirl pro-Vervet crusader, who helps out at the Monkey Helpline “high care” every spare moment she has, goes on rescues with us and also takes care of baby and “special care” Vervets, holds the little monkey who died horribly after being shot in Hudd Road, Amanzimtoti. She also sets up and manages our education table at the Essenwood Market every Saturday. She is one awesome little lady!)

Steve appealed to people having problems with the presence of monkeys to call Monkey Helpline for advice on how to deter them humanely. “We have helped thousands of people throughout KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere in South Africa who have had problems with the presence of monkeys, and those who say our advice does not work for them are in a minority who just don’t want to make the relatively small effort to put our suggestions into practice”.

At the time of the rescue in Hudd Road, Monkey Helpline volunteers leafleted the area with information about pellet gun cruelty and the legal consequences of discharging a pellet gun in a residential area. During this process the volunteers met a number of Athlone Park residents who were horrified about the shooting of the little monkey and undertook to report any person they saw using a pellet gun. “This was absolutely the same response we get wherever we go”, said Steve. “Only a small minority of people will deliberately resort to cruel and illegal methods to kill monkeys or chase them away from their property. With the support of law-abiding and caring people we will identify the shooters and we will have them prosecuted”.

Getting nespapers to run articles on Monkey helpline and the plight of Vervet monkeys in Southy Africa is critically important to the success of our efforts on behalf of these persecuted, maligned and misunderstood little animals. If readers of this post have any contacts in the media who they can get to write pro-monkey articles, then please get them to contact us!

Ever so “Flippin’ Cute”

Monkey Helpline blog readers will recall the little Vervet monkey that Carol was holding close in the blog posting of 16 August, “Monkeys still in harm’s way”. Since named “Flippin’ Cute”, because he is such an amazingly affable and bright little chap who holds no grudges against humans in spite of the despicable and cowardly way he has was attacked by some pellet gun-wielding low-life, he has made an amazing recovery.

In addition to being shot three times into his small body, of which at least one pellet went into his chest, he also sustained a badly fractured skull, probably after falling out of a tree or off a roof when he was shot (top pic shows just how swollen Flippin’ Cute’s eyes were after the trauma to his head).

Now both eyes are completely open and he has perfect vision (centre pic). There does not, at this stage appear to be any brain damage in spite of the severe concussion he suffered. He has an amazing appetite and already I am trying to convince Carol that he is a tad plump! And he is ever so cute!!

Evenings, whilst Carol is doing admin work he sits next to her on the table with a bowl of mixed food and chomps away to his heart’s content. And he watches TV with a real interest (bottom pic), responding to various things he sees, especially the animals on Animal Planet. He was terrified by a big dog even before it barked, watched curiously as a cat was treated by a vet, and then jumped into Carol’s arms and hid his face in her jersey when a turkey gobbled.

He is uncharacteristically afraid of other small monkeys and so he is being introduced slowly to two other monks of about the same age. It is important that he keeps in touch with his monkey-hood because we will make every effort to reunite him with his troop and his mother. If we don’t succeed in doing this he will be bonded into a troop of monkeys being prepared for rehabilitation and release. Sadly, at the time we rescued him he was alone with no other monkeys around, which means that his mother had abandoned him after he was injured, or else she too had been shot and was unable to stay with him. Quite possibly she is dead! Healthy mother Vervets don’t easily give up on their babies!!

Let’s hope we get to see Flippin’Cute running back into his mother’s arms – and Carol’s tears will be a mixture of sadness and joy!

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!