Daily News Article

Thanks to The Daily News for the article.

http://www.iol.co.za/dailynews/news/monkey-business-keeps-helpline-busy-1.1585553#.Ulz0WFMpmf4


Monkey business keeps helpline busy

October 2 2013 at 09:00am
By DAILY NEWS REPORTER


ND springbaby

Spring is not only a time when flowers bloom, but when the seemingly ubiquitous vervet monkey – adored by some, hated by others – start multiplying.

It’s also a time when the KZN Monkey Helpline sees an uptick in rescues of the primates, who get run over by cars, shot by annoyed humans or bitten by dogs.

Since the start of the breeding season last month the helpline has rescued 10 heavily pregnant monkeys and several newborns.

Three premature newborns had died due to trauma suffered by their mother, said the organisation’s spokesman, Darryl Oliver, but two were being cared for by human surrogate mothers.

“Females are pregnant for around 160 days and give birth from September through to December,” Oliver said.

He said of the 10 pregnant females that were rescued, only two had retained the foetuses. “Most monkeys who suffer trauma from being hit by cars, bitten by dogs or shot with air guns, abort their foetus after a few days,” Oliver said.

The organisation rescues about 30 baby vervets – usually those under six weeks old – each year. All are raised by specially trained human surrogate mothers.

“Having babies puts female vervet monkeys at risk,” Oliver said.

“One of the privileges that goes with living in KZN is that we have vervets living around our homes, schools, parks and even our factories.

“People have mixed emotions about them when they see vervets. Love them or hate them, they are here to stay,” he said.

The helpline aims to educate people to care about monkeys and to make urban wildlife areas a better place for humans and animals.

Oliver said monkeys were among the most misunderstood and persecuted of animals in South Africa.

Vervet Monkeys and Chacma Baboons – Who they are, and What they are not!!

Below is a reworked presentation I made at the University of Cape Town in October 2007. I believe it is important for everyone to know that vivisection (animal based research and product testing) is alive and well in South Africa and that wild caught Vervet Monkeys and Chacma Baboons are amongst the innocent victims of this officially sanctioned cruelty.

Today I am going to tell you something of who these two species of animals are, and what they are not. I have deliberately not referred to any scientific papers or other formal studies about non-human primates, because I am of the unwavering belief that every individual of every species of non-human primate is a sentient being who should be respected, appreciated and protected against harm wherever possible. Unfortunately this fact is mostly ignored in scientific studies where they are seen not as individuals – each with inherent value who exists in his /her own right and for his/her own reasons, and whose value is not reducible to whatever form of commodity-related value ( such as science tool, source of food or entertainment, etc) we humans conveniently attach to these fascinating animals – but rather they are seen as commodities, things, given numbers and not names!

As Michele (Michele Pickover, at the time one of the Trustees of Animal Rights Africa and long-standing anti-vivisection activist) has stated so accurately during her presentation, and I quote what you have already heard:

“Primates are highly intelligent social animals who live in the wild and have large home ranges covering a rich and varied habitat in which they display a complex range of behaviours. Confining them in laboratories and using them in experiments causes them an immense amount of suffering which is totally unacceptable.

Other primates share with us many morally relevant capacities that were once thought unique to humans. There is very powerful evidence that animals throughout the order of mammals, at the least, are conscious of their pain, pleasures, appetites and emotions, as well as being conscious of the outside world. Monkeys, as well as apes and humans, ‘know what they know and remember’ and also ‘know when they forget’. They communicate meaning as well as emotion in their vocalisations; understand and use abstract symbols; mentally represent numbers; undertake problem-solving; constantly make decisions; comprehend cause and effect; form concepts and have desires; observe and interpret the gaze of other individuals, and practice deception. There are strong, affectionate bonds between individuals, particularly mothers and offspring, and maternal siblings, that may persist throughout life. They show emotions clearly similar to those we label happy, sad, angry, and depressed. They have a sense of self and a sense of humour. Like us, they can be aggressive and even brutal or compassionate and altruistic.

Like us, they are able to remember past events and anticipate and fear future experiences – such as pain. These attributes are morally significant because they show that other primates are harmed not only by physical pain, but also by mental and emotional distress – such as is caused by a barren environment, frustration, restraint or social isolation and the presence, or anticipation, of something fearful or painful.”

I must admit to having a fascination with non-human primates in general, as I do with all animals, wild and domestic. However, probably because non-human-primates behave in so many ways, and do so many things, that we humans can understand and identify with merely by watching them as they deal with all aspects of life that confront them each day, I also identify with the many threats they face each day to their safety and well-being, and I am compelled to do whatever I am capable of to actively defend and protect them against all the injustices perpetrated against them by humans. This is why, after having been involved with primate-related issues since 1984 when I was Chairperson of the Durban branch of what is now known as the Wildlife and Environment Society of Southern Africa (WESSA), I was in 1995 compelled to start the Monkey Helpline in KwaZulu-Natal. Often throughout one’s life you look back and ask, “why did I take so long to do something? Why did I not do that much sooner? Well, I have asked myself these questions a zillion times as I go about Monkey Helpline activities every day, because every day I see things being done to baboons and monkeys in South Africa that make my stomach turn, and not least of these is what happens to monkeys and baboons who are unfortunate enough to end up as subjects of some or other research.

As I speak, the provincial conservation authority in KZN, Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife (EKZNW), is preparing for the final public meeting that will lead to the adoption of a new management policy for all captive primates in the province – the conclusion of a process that has taken four years (now completed). And it is a process that resulted from pressure by individuals and organisations such as Monkey Helpline, concerned about the lowly status afforded primates in the province, which lowly status gave more rights to people who wanted to kill primates or use them for research or confine them in zoos than to people who wanted to protect and care for them. In fact, the existing provincial conservation Ordinance actually states that only research institutions and zoos may be permitted to keep indigenous primates. The Ordinance sets no animal welfare standards, no duty to care, relating to the capture, confinement and care of these highly intelligent and demanding animals – something which will be a very important component of the new management policy. In drafting this policy via a process of stakeholder meetings, one of the controversial aspects that needed to be dealt with was the use of Vervets and Chacmas, in fact all primates, in biomedical and other research, collectively called vivisection. What I found both fascinating and disturbing was that whilst most of those involved with this process knew of the use of primates in vivisection, hardly any of them had considered that this also affected the indigenous primates that were the subject of this draft legislation. The existence of ethics committees was mentioned as the so-called “acceptable” means of ensuring that all experiments were approved and done humanely, but it was interesting to note that even whilst this policy formulation process was underway, the BRC at UDW had applied for permits to obtain Chacma Baboons, and that during a suitability check by the local SPCA and EKZNW inspectors of the BRC, they not only found it unsuitable for keeping baboons, but actually confiscated and euthanised the Vervet Monkeys that were being housed there. It is also interesting to note that at the time that this took place, a member of the UDW ethics committee was also the veterinarian attached to the Durban SPCA. So much for ethics committees.

Do you know that no-one has the faintest idea how many Chacma Baboons or Vervet Monkeys we have in South Africa? What we do know is that habitat destruction and modification is having a hugely negative impact on these animals and as a result there is an ever increasing level of direct contact between them and the population of humans who have annexed the territories that these baboons and monkeys have inhabited for many generations. And with this increase in contact we have an increase in concerns for the wellbeing of both the baboons and monkeys and the people affected. One positive is that this situation forces more people to show a greater interest in these animals in an attempt to understand them and so lobby for greater protection for them, as both individuals and as species.

The sad thing is that few, if any, of the people who use baboons and monkeys as research tools bother to find out more about who these animals are and how they live. If they did they would discover what amazingly intelligent and complex beings they are, how well structured their societies are and very much like us they are in terms of their needs. They would realise what a terrible thing it is to trap wild primates and rip them away from their families in order to sell them into the world of vivisection. They would realise what a terrible thing it is confine them in isolation, in cold, sterile cages, deprive them of the social interactions with others of their kind that is such an important aspect of their mental and social wellbeing, and they would know what a terrible thing it is to subject these animals to the horrors of biomedical, warfare and other research.

Whilst discussing various aspects of the proposed new primate legislation for KZN during the many meetings that have taken place over the past four years, one thing that struck me was how little time the participating stakeholders had spent actually observing primates, in both free-ranging and captive situations, and I became convinced that it was this ignorance about these animals that made it so difficult for many of the stakeholders to understand what a management policy should really look like if it was to afford these animals a reasonable measure of protection against so much of the cruelty and exploitation to which they are subjected.

I say again, how many researchers actually know anything about the lives of the animals they see as mere research tools? Few, if any, I believe. If they did I think that it would lead them to more readily question the ethics of using these animals for research. But maybe I have displaced faith in the moral fortitude of vivisectors.

During the years that I have coordinated the activities of the Monkey Helpline, I have had an amazing insight into who Vevets and Chacmas are, how they live and what we should be doing to protect them against the injustice of abuse and exploitation for, amongst other things, vivisction.

They are not commodities!

They are not disposable things!
They ARE thinking, caring, sensitive beings, and they deserve the highest level of protection we can possibly give them, both officially and privately, also individually and collectively!!

(PS. All pics used on my blog posts are taken by Carol Booth.)

Monkey Helpline NEEDS YOU!

Its been a while since last I sat down in front of this computer to create a new blog post, primarily because we have been so busy rescuing and caring for Vervet Monkeys, even into the early hours of the morning, that I have been too tired to get my mind around drafting a post for this blog. So what has changed to get me in front of my computer putting on screen what you now have in front of you?

Simply, Monkey Helpline is in dire straits. Financially the burden has just become too much for Carol and I to carry on our own. Actually, I depleted my personal resources a few years ago and because of the 24/7 demands of rescuing and caring for the monkeys we care so much about, I have not been able to do any work that will replenish my bank account. To do this would mean dividing my time between unrelated but paying work and doing monkey rescues, care giving and education. “Well why not do this”, I hear you asking. My answer – rescues and caring for the monkeys we have rescued are, as I have already said, a 24/7 job. Unless, of course, I allocate a specific number of hours daily to rescues, care and education and also hold down a paying job so that any Monkey Helpline work that falls outside of those hours will have to, well, just wait.
Won’t that just go down well with a caring member of the public who calls about a monkey run over by a car and dragging its paralysed lower body as it tries too escape into the roadside bush. “You have two options”, I tell the caller. “I finish work at 4 pm, so if you could please just keep an eye on that monkey until I can get there, it will only be another three hours, I will rush over there as soon as I leave the office. Alternatively just leave the monkey and I’ll pop by after work to see if its still there. If it is still there I’ll pick it up and rush it to the vet, presuming its still alive.”
Fact is, we can only do this work if we are available every time we are called out to a rescue, doing caring and educating in the time between rescues and the vet.
Why then is Monkey Helpline in dire straits?
In a nutshell, we have outgrown ourselves. The more effective and successful we have become at rescuing monkeys, the more monkeys we take into our care, the more time we spend at the vet, the higher our vet bills, fuel costs, cell phone bills, food bill, and other related costs. Add to this that there is virtually no currently available rehabilitation or sanctuary outlet for any of the monkeys that come into our care. More rescues really do mean more expenses, less available time and a desperate need for funding from generous and reliable sources. A sad reality of life is that without funds our capacity to rescue and educate will grind to a halt!

For a number of years now Carol has unselfishly carried the lion’s share of the burden to keep Monkey Helpline delivering the rescue, care and education service for which it has become well known and highly respected. It would be folly for her to continue depleting her own resources to the point wher both she and I are destitute. This would have only one outcome and I don’t need to spell that out here!

So, what now? To give up on the monkeys would destroy us emotionally, a scenario too horrible to even contemplate. Our approximately 750 rescue callouts annually would be left to other animal care organisations to deal with, and with all due respect, they wouldn’t be able to successfully carry out more than a fraction of those. For the monkeys it would be a disaster and a tragedy, and for caring people who make the rescue calls it would be devastating.
But , you can help us to continue helping the monkeys. We are about to embark on a package of ambitious fundraising initiatives, included in which is an appeal for fundraisers who will initate fundraising projects for Monkey Helpline on a commission of total funds raised basis. Will all prospective fundraisers please step forward!!
Another reliable source of funds could be the recruitment of “sustainers”, namely people who commit to a debit order payment of R100 monthly to Monkey Helpline. Two hundred “sustainers” would generate R20 000 per month, a healthy portion of the approximately R30 000 it costs monthly to run Monkey Helpline at its current operating level. This figure would be much higher if Monkey Helpline carried the costs of water, electricity and part time labour currently also borne by Carol, who also makes her house and garden available to Monkey Helpline’s current operation at no cost.
We cannot carry on as things are right now. We have to raise the required funds and we must also expand to provide fully functional sanctuary and rehabilitation facilities. Whether or not we achieve these goals in the immediate future, and there is no alternative because as things are we have no medium or long term future, will determine if Monkey Helpline continues to exist. It has to be 24/7, 365 days a year, or nothing at all. If money is the root of all evil, it is also the food of all success. Without the necessary funding Monkey Helpline is doomed, and so are the monkeys! Monkey Helpline really does need you!!!

P.S. For all of you generous monkey-caring folk who are champing at the bit to contribute to Monkey Helpline, our banking details are as follows:

– Account name: Monkey Helpline
– Bank : Standard Bank
– Branch : Melville
– Account number: 081385439
– Branch code : 006105
– Type of account: Cheque
– Swift code: SBZAZAJJ

– Reference : Your cell phone number or email address

Pics – Top to bottom:

Top – Two baby Vervets rescued by monkey Helpline during this past “baby season” The little guy closest to surrogate mom, Jenny Morgans’, is Drew. He was, as far as we know the first baby rescued in KZN this past baby season – 10 August 2010. He was found in the middle of a service road at the Bluff military base in Durban, on his own, no mother or other monkeys in sight.

Middle – This little one-year old girl was shot into the side of her head and the lead airgun pellet has lodged at the back right inside her skull, hopefully causing minimal brain damage on its way. She is currently under veterinary care and being cared for at the Monkey Helpline high care facility.

Bottom: Monkeys foraging in dustbins and refuse bags put out for collection, incur the wrath of many. Monkey Helpline educates people about how they can humanely prevent monkeys from making this kind of nuisance of themselves.

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!

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!

Pics:

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.

VERVETS NEED YOUR HELP!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Do it now!

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

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

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

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

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

More “paintball pain”.

Oh so sore!

Our previous Monkey Helpline blog post about the effects of paintball guns on Vervet monkeys and other animals inspired my daughter, Kiron, who lives in Gauteng, to send a few pics of injuries she has suffered whislt engaging in paintball games at a paintball range (the only place a paintball should be fired at a living being – other than when used for self-protection against criminals!) At the time of these injuries she was wearing protective clothing…

Looking at these injuries, caused by a paintball gun that is set at the maximum velocity for use at a paintball range, namely, 270 feet per second, you can imagine the damage caused by a paintball fired at around 400 feet per second!! No wonder Mr Macho won’t take up my challenge to let me shoot him with his own paintball gun from a distance of ten meters.

But then I shouldn’t be surprised. People who are cruel to animals really are just cowardly moral retards!

Thanks for sharing your pain with us, Kiron. The pictures speak volumes!

The “PAIN” in Paintball.

Comment on the use of Paintball guns against animals.

Increasingly we, Monkey Helpline, come across people who tell us that their neighbour or someone they know shoots at monkeys or other animals with a paintball gun. And on a number of occasions when we have done public presentations, so-called animal-friendly people, nearly always males, have told us that they chase away Vervet monkeys or other “ troublesome” animals by shooting at them with a paintball gun. They are adamant that the paintball does not hurt too seriously and certainly won’t maim or kill the animal! We beg to differ, seriously differ!

My response to these Neanderthals is to challenge them to let me shoot them with their own paintball gun from a ten meter distance, and I’ll set the speed at which the paintball is fired. You guessed right – NO TAKERS!! Can’t understand though, because Mr Macho has just told me that the paintball doesn’t really hurt the monkey! We have on more than one occasion rescued monkeys splashed in paint from the paintballs shot at them. We rescued a young monkey (see pic ) with severe concussion after a witness actually saw him being shot against his head with a paintball. He later died from a brain hemorrhage!

The question I always ask is, “Then tell me why, when people play their paintball games, do they wear such serious protection gear”? I see special-impact-lessening vests, helmets, eye protection and much more. I also see the painful injuries people suffer during these games when a paintball hits a less protected part of their body. Looking at those injuries I can only imagine the impact with which the paintball strikes the body of a small animal like a monkey, cat or bird. It must be phenomenal, and both terrifying and excruciatingly painful!

It’s definitely time to introduce restrictions on the random use of paintball guns in residential areas and also as a means of chasing away animals. Most metropolitan by-laws allow for prosecution of anyone doing anything, or acting in a manner, that could cause damage to property or injury to any person. The malicious use of paintball guns would in all likelihood fall under the control of such a by-law. But it is time to act more directly against paintball violence and specific laws are urgently needed. As more and more people claim that they have purchased their paintball gun for self defence in our crime-ridden country, so the nature of the objects used as paintball ammunition become more dangerous, and so the effect on animal targets becomes more lethal.

It’s a simple fact borne out by visible evidence: paintball guns are not toys – in the wrong hands they are dangerous weapons that are being used to perpetrate terrible acts of cruelty against monkeys and other animals!!

Happiness!

In the previous blog posting I told you about baby Kyle and how he ended up in the care of Monkey Helpline surrogate mom, Jenny Morgans. It was a sad tale of death and orphaning. Now I can share with you an experience that will bring tears of joy and leave you elated knowing that tragedy can have a happy ending.

But first I must take you back about six weeks prior to the rescue of baby Kyle – (Top pic shows a crying, blood-smeared Kyle newly rescued off his dead mother’s body).

Monkey Helpline was called out to Hudd Road, Athlone Park in Amanzimtoti by Grant Thomson, who had spotted a pregnant female Vervet in his garden with a really bad injury to her left arm. A lover of the Vervet Monkeys, Grant had watched this female as she struggled to compete for food and appeared totally out of sorts because of the severity of her injury, and he felt that we might be able to help her. As soon as we saw her we decided that we needed to trap her and get her to our vet, Dr Kerry Easson of Riverside Veterinary Clinic in Durban North, for a check up and treatment of her injury.

We trapped her and rushed her straight to Kerry who, after sedating her, diagnosed a severe and badly infected bite wound to that region of her left arm above and below the elbow, and cutting right through the muscle and main tendon at the back of her arm just above and through the elbow. Kerry re-attached muscle and tendon and Leila, as Carol had named her, came to the Monkey Helpline High Care to recover.

Three weeks later Kerry checked her almost fully healed injury and declared her fit for release. Our attempts over a number of weeks to reintroduce Leila to her troop failed. The first time we tried to return her to her troop almost ended in disaster. Shortly after we released her, a group of adult females viciously attacked her, chasing her into a house where we managed to recapture her, and during both subsequent attempted releases they were so aggressive towards her whilst she was still confined in our transport cage that we decided it would be too risky to release her in her advanced state of pregnancy. We felt that in her best interests and those of her as yet unborn baby we should now place Leila in a rehabilitation programme.

Unfortunately, two weeks later Leila had a miscarriage, giving birth to a dead but fully formed, close to term, baby!

Now back to baby Kyle!

After taking Kyle into her care, Jenny took him to vet Kerry where a thorough check-up confirmed that he had miraculously survived the violent death of his mother without so much as a scratch or bruise, and that all the blood Jenny had cleaned off him was in fact his mother’s.

Back home, Jenny wrapped Kyle in a blue blanket, bottle-fed him, then carried him with her to check on the monkeys in her outside recovery cage. As Jenny approached the cage, Leila immediately came right up to her and gazed intensely at the blanket. Jenny opened the blanket so that Leila could see Kyle. To Jenny’s amazement Leila reached through the wire and gently touched Kyle. She clearly wanted to take the baby. Jenny phoned us right away, so we raced over to her house to see if Leila would actually take Kyle from Jenny and adopt him as her own.

With Carol trying to video-film the whole thing, Jenny entered Leila’s cage with Kyle. Leila rushed forward, grabbed Kyle from Jenny, tucked him into her body and ran back to her sleeping basket. We held our collective breath as she inspected Kyle and left us in no doubt that she had adopted him the moment she laid eyes on him.

Kyle, though, was not that easily convinced that this was his new mother. He squirmed and twisted and climbed and cried right through the remainder of that day and the next. He was a baby from hell, but Leila did not flinch. She gently pulled him back every time he tried to escape her hold, pushed his face firmly against her nipples encouraging him to suckle, all the time making sure he was safely within the circle of her arms. In his frustration to “escape” to his own mother who, no doubt he still believed was somewhere out there waiting to “rescue” him, he bit and scratched and pulled at any part of Leila’s body he could reach. Her gentle and loving resolve was just awesome to behold and she tolerated everything he could throw at her, holding him tight and kissing him on top of his little head and over his face in an effort to console and comfort him.

Of course Leila had not actually had a baby and it was exactly seven days since her miscarriage, so she had no milk in her breasts. And Kyle was getting hungry, and also grinchy, and he needed food! So we had no choice but to catch Leila and steal Kyle back from her. Jenny kept him with her long enough to give him two good bottle feeds and then gave him back to Leila who grabbed him from Jenny the moment she opened the inner door of the cage. Kyle, his little tummy full of warm milk, spent a comfortable night sleeping tightly clutched to Leila’s comforting body. Throughout the next day, which happened to be Friday, Leila loved and nurtured Kyle whilst he put on his very best brat kid performance. She, on the other hand, was being the best mother any little kid monkey could ever wish for – though he did not yet appreciate his blessing! He did however latch to his adoptive mom’s nipples – both nipples in his mouth at the same time as is the way with Vervet babies – but she still had no milk and this must have contributed greatly to his unhappiness. So once again, at the end of the day, we had the unenviable task of catching Leila and taking Kyle away to be bottle-fed. And once again Laila was waiting at the door to grab Kyle back from Jenny after he had drunk his fill from the bottle.

I must mention that throughout this entire process we were constantly in touch with our good friend, Karen Trendler, one of South Africa’s foremost wildlife care-givers and rehabilitation experts, who is also Monkey Helpline’s rehabilitation and wildlife husbandry advisor. Karen’s calm support and advice were invaluable!

Come Saturday morning and Kyle seemed very content as he suckled from his new mom – (in contrast the centre pic shows a sad, newly orphaned baby Kyle with his rescuer, Karon Hutchison, her husband, Gary, and son, Kyle), and Leila was going about her business unfazed, one protective arm always holding Kyle close and safe. But by that evening Jenny was like a mother hen with a newly hatched brood of chicks who were all running in different directions. She was convinced that Kyle was getting weaker, that he was dehydrated and that we must come and get him for her to bottle-feed again. You see, Jenny is used to being the surrogate mom, where she can feed and feel and touch and love the baby monkey – she is lovingly in control, just like any good mother should be! It was really hard for her to watch baby Kyle from a distance and not know if his tummy had food in it or not! So Carol and I went over and had a good look at Kyle. He seemed fine to us. But, just to be sure, I phoned Karen and discussed with her what I was seeing. She asked the right questions, got the answers and suggested we leave Kyle till the morning and see how he was doing. She reckoned that if he wasn’t acting all irritable, was latched to the nipples, looked bright-eyed and was firmly attached to his new mom, he was probably fine and that in all likelihood Leila was starting to produce milk.

By Sunday morning Kyle was still suckling, wasn’t crying and looked pretty strong. And we haven’t touched him again. He is the happiest, healthiest baby monkey you could ever meet. Leila has milk to spare and is the most awesome mom. She absolutely loves her baby!

So how did this all come together so beautifully after the terrible tragedies that befell Leila and Kyle?

When Leila gave birth to her dead baby, she carried the tiny body for two days. We decided not to take the baby away until she allowed Jenny to do so. When she did put the body down, Jenny went in, picked it up and wrapped it in a blue blanket. Outside the closed inner gate, Jenny put the little bundle on the ground then opened it enough for Leila to see her dead baby. Jenny left it like that for a while then wrapped the baby and took the bundle away. When, five days after taking Leila’s dead baby away in a blue blanket, Jenny showed baby Kyle to Leila and got the response she did, she had by complete coincidence also wrapped Kyle in a blue blanket. Only afterwards when we discussed Leila’s first reaction to Kyle did the importance of the blue blanket strike us. Jenny suddenly recalled that Leila had last seen her dead baby taken away in a blue blanket, and now when Jenny opened a blue blanket again there was “her” baby, alive! Some might scoff at this but we really do think that Leila might believe that Kyle really is her baby. After all, we have rescued little monkeys hit by motor cars or bitten by dogs and left for dead. We have treated them and successfully reunited them with their mothers, three, four, and even up to ten weeks later. The mother has recognized her child and taken it back and the experience is something that we cannot find the words to adequately describe – it is simply mind-blowing!

Now the future looks bright for mom and baby. They will form part of a seed troop that is bonded together as part of a process of bonding a larger number of rescued monkeys into a full size troop that will, in a few years time, be rehabilitated into the wild where they will live as all releasable monkeys should – FREE!!!

What an eventful past few weeks. I could write three blog postings every day in an effort to keep you abreast of everything we have experienced and witnessed. There has been heartache and elation, incredulity, anger, confirmation in our belief that most people are genetically programmed to be caring and compassionate, and even laughter.

In this blog posting I’ll share with you “part 1” of an experience that grows from the depths of desperate heartache to the unexpected pinnacle of elation.

Heartache as we gathered up the broken bodies of five Vervet monkeys killed south of Durban on the N2 in one tragic incident – three on the southbound lanes and two on the edge of the median adjacent to the north bound lanes. Two adult females, their two-year old daughters and an about-to-be-born baby, all killed by motor vehicles, with the unborn baby literally smashed from her mother’s broken body. And as we darted across a busy freeway collecting the bodies, two newly orphaned young Vervet monkeys sat in a nearby tree calling pathetically for mothers and siblings whose answering calls and loving caress they would never hear or feel again.

There will no doubt be criticism of our risk-taking on a busy freeway to collect the bodies of already dead monkeys, but unfortunately, leaving them on or near the road often results in further tragedy as related monkeys, especially the youngsters or mothers of those killed, run back onto the road confused as to why the dead or injured monkeys are not moving or following. Furthermore, dead animals left in the road often lead to the death of other animals, such as raptors and mongooses, even domestic dogs and cats, who attempt to feed off the freshly killed animal.

The two monkeys on the median had been moved there by Karon Hutchison who witnessed the terrible tragedy and couldn’t bear to leave the two bodies on the road surface where they would be mangled by racing wheels. It was as she was about to move the body of the adult female that she noticed the little baby miraculously still clinging to his dead mother. In disbelief she removed the totally unharmed baby from his mother’s body, took him home with her to St Winifreds and called Monkey Helpline. That’s where we met baby Kyle, named after Karon’s son who was lovingly holding and nurturing the baby when we arrived to take over the responsibility of caring for the tiny tot. (Top pic shows the proud trio of Gary, Karon and Kyle Hutchison with baby Kyle, just before handing him into the care of Monkey Helpline).

En route back to Durban we rang Jenny Morgans, Monkey Helpline’s human surrogate mother of note, and told her that a newly orphaned Vervet monkey baby was heading her way. By the time we reached Jenny she had already prepared a warm bottle, a cuddly toy and warm, soft blanket to welcome Kyle.


(Bottom pic is a close-up of baby Kyle – a few days old yet already orphaned).

With baby Kyle safely entrusted to the best care possible other than what he would have experienced with his own mother, Carol and I turned our attention to the next rescue call-out!

But if the tragedy of part 1 has left you sad and despairing, then look out for part 2, to follow shortly. I promise it will leave you smiling and with a warm feeling in your heart!