Thursday, 25 September 2008

September 14 and 15

Sept 14 is another day of diversity which includes setting our trap in Belamont Gardens, Umhloti, for a young monkey (about the age of the monkey Carol is holding in this pic) with an exposed skull. We need to catch him or else the exposed bone will dry out and allow germs direct access to the brain – which will be fatal! Garth and Mandy who live in Belamont Gardens are very famiiar with this injured monkey and his troop. They will attempt the trapping.

Most of the day is taken up with non-monkey related rescues for the Animal Rights Africa project, Animal Rescues Unimited (ARU), also coordinated by Steve and Carol.

Sept 15 starts with a 6.30 rescue callout to Escombe in Queensburgh. An early morning walker has literally had a small monkey drop out of a tree onto the road in front of him after the thin branch it was clinging to, broke. He calls a friend, Santi, who happens to have our ARU project number after a cat rescue we did for her about two years ago. Santi describes the monkey’s condition to me, which doesn’t sound at all good, and I ask her to go and fetch it right away and keep it wrapped warmly till I get there. From her description of the monkey, I imagine it to be one of last season's youngsters, about ten months old.

What an unexpected surprise when I arrive at the scene. Santi has placed the wrapped monkey in a spare room so that it cannot escape if it suddenly finds a burst of energy. But this monkey is going nowhere! He is a one-day old newborn, virtually frozen stiff and instinctively still clinging tightly to the piece of dried branch that he must have clung to all night after being separated from his mother the previous day. His sparse hair was no protection against the cold and how he was still alive after the cold night is anyone’s guess.

The best I can do for him is stick him under my t-shirt and hope my body warmth will help him. He is in desperate need of warming up quickly so I also turn up the cars heater to maximum and have to drive home feeling like I am in a sauna. A quick call to Carol has her waiting at the gate with the necessary warm-up goodies – covered hot water bottle and soft baby blanket. She does the necessary mothering whilst I call Jan and James Hampton, our surrogate parents of choice when it comes to caring for the newborn babies we rescue every year, and break the news to them that their first baby for the 2008/9 season is about to be delivered to them. They have successfully cared for scores of baby monkeys over many years and fortunately we will be seeing them in a few hours at a primate rehabilitation workshop we will all be attending.

By the time we h
and over the baby to Jan, he has a full tummy and is already much stronger, and by the end of the workshop, during which he has been constantly mothered and bottle-fed by Jan, he has a healthy look about him. Baby Jordan, as Jan has named him after Carol’s son, is now in very good hands and we feel confident that he will survive.

During the day we receive a call from Dianne in Northdene, Queensburgh who tells us that one of the pregnant females in “her” troop has got a snare tightly encircling her chest just below her breasts. This is a dire predicament for this monkey to be in, especially as she will soon be nursing a baby. We have to trap her as soon as possible in order to remove the snare, hopefully before she gives birth! But by the time Dianne has gone back to see if she is still there, the troop has moved on. Dianne will phone the moment she sees the snared monkey again, hopefully very soon!

September 13

Like every Saturday, this one starts with our outreach/education table at the Essenwood Market in Durban. And like every other Saturday at the Market, a rescue callout interrupts our enthusiastic engagement with people wanting to know more about the work we do with monkeys, or want advice on how to keep monkeys out of their home and garden, or people who just want to tell us how much they despise monkeys - fortunately not many of this last lot.

This time the call is from St. Winifreds in Amanzimtoti south of Durban. Carol stays at the market and I attend to the callout. The monkey is an adult male with a badly injured left arm. He has been sprawled on a branch all morning with the injured arm just hanging down. When he gets uncomfortable and changes position, the arm is not used at all. From what I can see he has a bad cut under the left upper arm into the shoulder joint. There is a lot of blood but the wound has stopped bleeding. He shows no interest in the food offered to entice him within catching range and the only way we will possibly catch him is by darting him with a sedative. Friend Daniel from the Pietermaritzburg SPCA arrives and attempts a darting. But the wind is howling and the shot is not a good one. The dart does however hit the monkey and galvanizes him into action. He jumps from the tree onto a roof and from there to the ground and races away. Daniel and I, nets in hand, race after him in the hope that enough of the sedative has been released into his muscle to at least slow him down after a couple of minutes. No such luck! A hundred meters further and he has disappeared. We search in vain and eventually admit that we have lost him. We can only hope that he has made it into the nearby bush and that if the drug does take affect he will sleep it off in the safety of the impenetrable vegetation.

We ask a few locals who are sympathetic to the monkeys to keep a look out for him and notify us if they see him.

Back to the Market just in time to help Carol with packing up.

As we leave the Market we receive another rescue callout. This time it is a young monkey at a home in Shallcross, barely able to drag himself along. Carol tells the caller to secure the monkey by placing a laundry basket over him and holding it down until we arrive. Far too often callers have assured us that the animal cannot move and is virtually dead, only for us to arrive at the scene to find the animal disappeared, because they did not keep watch over it as requested by us.

But this little chap really wasn’t going anywhere. The victim of a high voltage powerline electrocution, both his legs and one hand are burnt beyond repair. His injuries are horrific, yet so strong is the will to survive that he has crawled from who knows where as he attempts to follow his troop. How he managed to avoid dogs and cars we'll never know. With heavy hearts we rush him to the Sherwood Emergency Veterinary Clinic where compassionate staff gently ease his suffering with a strong sedative and then euthanase him.

A sad end to a long day!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

September 12

Mid-morning and there is a call from Ann on the Bluff to tell us that after hearing the sound of an airgun, she rushed downstairs from her second floor flat to find a beautiful adult male Vervet lying dead just inside the boundary wall. We asked her to put the monkey in a bag until we can get there to assess the situation. Arriving at the scene we collect the body of the monkey from the gardener and on inspection we see that it has a very clearly identifiable pellet hole in the right side of the head, just in front of the ear, and that this is definitely the cause of death. Ann tells us the neighbour, an old man in his eighties, regularly hides amongst his banana trees and shoots at the monkeys and birds who visit his extensive, back-yard fruit and vegetable garden.

So off we went to visit the old man. After depositing the monkey on the dining room table I asked “Oom Johan”, as a middle-aged woman also living there called him, if he had shot any monkeys in the past hour or so. He was horrified that I should suspect him of having shot the monkey. He did however admit that he had, in the past hour or so, fired a pellet in the direction of the troop of monkeys that had been in his garden eating his bananas. But, he said, he had aimed at the wall behind the monkeys and that having served his country for five years during the Second World War there was no way that he would have shot a monkey if he had aimed at the wall! The connection here eludes me. Is there one?

Half an hour later we were no closer to convincing Oom Johan that his aim was not nearly as true as he liked to believe, and that the monkey lying dead on his dining room table had actually been killed by him.

We took the dead monkey to one of our vets for it to be X-rayed and to obtain a vet report confirming the cause of death. We intend pursuing a criminal prosecution of Oom Johan in terms of the relevant section of the Firearms Control Act which makes it a criminal offence to fire an air/pellet gun in a residential area, as well as in terms of the Animal Protection Act. There definitely was cruelty involved, as the monkey had lived long enough after being shot in the head to run approximately fifteen to twenty meters and clamber over a 1.8 meter high wall before dying.

It is a source of constant frustration to us that the callous individuals who shoot monkeys and also harm and kill them in other ways, do so with virtual impunity because the people who see them do so and report such incidents to us, are reluctant to go to a police station to make a statement under oath, partly out of fear and partly because the police are indifferent to their complaint and even refuse to take a statement from them. Without such a statement our hands are tied and monkeys will continue to suffer and die like this.

So, if you are aware of anyone shooting monkeys with a pellet gun, go to your local police station and insist that they take your statement under oath. Then contact the Monkey Helpline and we will advise you on further steps that must be taken to help us stop this ruthless maiming and killing of monkeys.

September 11

September 11 - A quiet day insofar rescues went – none! But the day was still busy as we cleaned cages and then checked and fed the monkeys in the High Care Facility, fielded the usual calls about the “monkey menace”, contacted some of our monkey troop monitors to discuss their observations, AND attended to the needs of three children and the host of resident and “just passing through” animals who constitute an integral part of the lives of all animal rescuers and rehabilitators. And no day is complete without a visit from our resident Vervet troop (see attached pic) which, with approximately 35 members, forms an important resource in our ongoing efforts to understand the manner in which Vervet troops are structured and how they function as a team yet display such individualistic character traits. We are reminded daily, as we observe them, that there is still a mass of knowledge to be acquired before anyone can claim to really “know” these amazingly complex and intelligent little primates.

Friday, 19 September 2008

September 10

This day is a mixed bag for the Monkey Helpline rescue team. At 7.00 am, Mark from the heavy transport company at Avoca called to tell us that the young, seriously injured monkey who had evaded capture the previous day by hiding in a reed-bed, was lying on a roof girder in the company workshop. So once again kids are rushed through the final morning routine pre dropping off at school and Carol and I fret and curse as we negotiate the morning rush hour traffic whilst trying to get to the monkey before it disappears again. This monkey is in desperate need of being caught!

Arriving at the site we are waved through the security checkpoint by the security officer with hurried finger pointings in the direction of the workshop where “Mark is waiting for you with the monkey!” At the workshop we see the pathetically thin monkey standing under one of the lights, obviously enjoying the heat it generates. He was immediately aware that something was afoot and hobbled painfully along the eight meter high girder and climbed through a small opening into the adjacent workshop. As I clambered up steel structures to cut off his escape route, he turned around and climbed back into the first workshop. As we watched, he stopped, head in one workshop, tail still in the other. Unbeknownst to me Carol had seen him coming back into the first workshop and had climbed up the steel supports to block his route. Knowing that the sound of the ladder being pushed up against the workshop wall would frighten him into movement, I used the ladder-like workshop support structures to climb quietly up to him. His tail, still visible, was very quickly in my grip and he was crying pathetically in frightened panic. I dropped him gently into the net that Carol had brought as soon as she realized I had caught the monkey. We boxed him and took him straight to our vet, Dr Kerry Easson, at Riverside Veterinary Clinic in Durban North.

Once sedated ( see pic above), Kerry checked him to assess his injuries and general condition. The right pelvis was totally crushed, and his right leg was non functional. He was severely dehydrated after days of struggling to find food and water and fighting off the massive infection in his pelvis and abdomen. We could do nothing to heal him so he was gently euthanased.

Then on to the 9.00 am meeting with the Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate Two (MECCE2)management association members in connection with our concerns about monkeys being shot with pellet guns on the estate. (Recall our related press release to the North Glen News contained in an earlier blog posting.)

We are happy to say that the meeting went well and we were subsequently able to provide the North Glen News with the following:

“We were positively received and they made it very clear that they would not tolerate any cruelty to animals on the estate. This includes shooting of monkeys. They pointed out that the use of pellet guns on the estate is banned and are totally committed to finding out who the shooters are and will deal with them very harshly, including laying charges with the SAPS and taking action in terms of MECCE rules of residence. Notices reaffirming the MECCEMA regulation banning the use of pellet guns on the estate will be sent out to all MECCE residents.

As for our concern that they were acting against the “feeders” and not the “shooters”, they pointed out that it was far easier to identify the former than the latter.

They agreed, in fact requested, to work closely with the Monkey Helpline in addressing any human/monkey related problems on the estate, and have asked Lynette Webber, who works closely with Monkey Helpline, to join their “environmental committee”. She has agreed to do so. The issue of feeding stations for monkeys on the estate, as a means of lessening the incidence of residents having monkeys enter their homes in search of food, will be revisited.

Furthermore, they have agreed to our suggestion that we hold a Monkey Helpline Open Day Education Exhibit at MECCE on Sunday, October 12.

We feel confident that the new MECCE Estate Two manager and the new MECCE board of directors, together with the Monkey Helpline, will play an important and positive role in managing the monkey issue on MECCE. We have undertaken to personally visit and advise any resident of MECCE who is having problems with the monkeys.”

And just to end the day on a positive note, we moved two monkeys from our high care facility at home to two large exercise enclosures at the Durban-based wildlife rehabilitation centre, CROW. One is an adult female from Pietermaritzburg who had been pregnant when she was struck by a motor car. She aborted her almost fully developed baby in our high care facility two days after being rescued. The other monkey is a beautiful, big adult male who was also struck by a motor car and luckily only sustained severe concussion and some deep lacerations. Both need to spend ten days to two weeks in the exercise enclosures to build up some muscle tone and fitness after spending weeks in small cages recuperating. The female will be released back to her troop, and the male will be released right where we rescued him so that he can continue the life he was leading when struck by the motor car.

Monday, 15 September 2008


Tuesday, September 9 starts with phone calls to various people in Bloemfontein trying to find anyone who has any information about alleged plans to move little Adam, a 6 month-old Chacma baboon from the medical research laboratories at Free State University to a rehabilitation centre.

For those who don’t know, Adam was handed to the Free State conservation authorities a few months ago by some good folk who had found him abandoned and, after caring for him for a while, passed him on in the belief that he would be placed in a rehabilitation programme. How wrong they were!

The Free State conservation boffins, in their infinite wisdom and compassion, saw Adam as a threat to the genetic purity of their baboons and decided that he should become a research tool. They claimed that there was no rehabilitation programme that could take Adam. What utter nonsense!

A public outcry by animal-caring people country-wide has so far yielded no positive outcome for Adam, but yesterday (September 8) I was asked to enquire as to where Adam was being sent, as there was a rumour that he was finally destined for a recognized rehabilitation centre – somewhere! I quickly established that none of the baboon rehabilitation centres anywhere in South Africa had been issued a permit for Adam, though all said they would gladly accept him. Then after a number of phone calls to the Free State conservation department, and being shunted from pillar to post, the official in the permit issuing office, on my second phone call to her, crossed her heart and swore to die when telling me that Adam was still at Free State University and that no permit had been issued to transfer him anywhere else.

So, young Adam’s fate still hangs in the balance, or should I say “imbalance”, as the conservation officials play god with his precious life. But he has not been abandoned by decent caring people and the fight to rescue him continues.

Closer to home Carol was diarizing a talk on Vervet monkeys that we would be doing to a group of learners at a prestigious Durban school on September 18. These talks, accompanied by an attention-grabbing slide presentation, form a vitally important part of our broad-based education effort about monkeys, and we try to schedule as many talks as we are able to do.

Then at 10.55 the inevitable daily rescue callout. Acquaintance Mark, who works for a heavy transport company in Avoca, north of Durban, called for assistance with a badly injured young monkey near the truck wash-bay. We asked him to offer the monkey food in an effort to keep it from moving off in the time it would take us to reach him.

Unfortunately, by the time we reached the scene the monkey had moved through the 2.5 meter high razor wire security fence and was sitting just out of reach amongst the reeds that line a tributary of the Umgeni river. Wondering why companies waste so much money on this type of security fencing, I scaled the fence about ten meters away from the monkey and dropped down the other side, unharmed. The little monkey was so skittish that he crawled down into the layers of old and broken reeds before I could get anywhere near him and was just impossible to find. A half hour search yielded only nettle-stung legs and burning cuts from the sharp-edged reed leaves.

Not willing to give up on what we knew was a very badly injured and suffering animal, we placed food near the place where the monkey was first seen and asked Mark to call us when the monkey reappeared, which we knew – hoped – it would. We drove away with heavy hearts as we always do after not catching a monkey we have gone out to rescue. We fail so seldom that we haven’t got used to the horrible feeling. For the rest of the day, every time my phone rang we willed it to be Mark calling to tell us that the little monkey was back. Fate was not being kind to us – or to the desperately-in-need-of-being-rescued monkey. No phone call! We could only hope for better luck the next day…

Sunday, 14 September 2008

...of good things and bad!

September 8, 2008 - It really is frustrating and worrying when you know, as a rescuer, that there is an injured, sick or orphaned/abandoned animal out there that you have to catch, but you can’t find it or it hasn’t returned to the place where you have left the trap. This was the case with a male monkey with a wire snare around his neck that we mentioned in a previous posting titled, “Last three days of August.”

On the day we were called about this monkey, August 31, we wasted no time getting to the address in Hillary, Durban where the caller was watching him. As we arrived the snared monkey was already leading his troop towards their night-roosting clump of trees down in the valley. He was very wary of us and offered no chance for me to net him. Even Carol’s usually irresistible offering of peanuts and banana would not lure him closer. But we did see that the snare, made from a few strands of bicycle-cable, was tightly around his neck and needed to be removed. We would have to trap him!

With our trap in use elsewhere we were only able to drop it with the caller three days later, on September 3. Having been told by the caller that this monkey and his troop visited his home every day, and often twice a day, we were hopeful of catching him within a day or two.

No such luck! Expecting a call every day from the caller telling us that the monkey was in the trap, it was only on the sixth day that the call came – at six-thirty in the morning. Kids, half-dressed for school were rushed through breakfast and morning bathroom routine so fast what they never knew what hit them, were bundled into the car and off we rushed. Carol and I could not conceal our excitement and our ear-to-ear grins told it all.

Seeing a monkey in our trap with the door closed is a sight we will never get used to, so arriving at the site of the trapping and seeing the snare-impaired monkey sitting calmly eating the peanuts we had left for him was about as a good a start to our week as we could have wished for. In a jiffy we had him securely in our transport box and were just about to leave for the vet via the schools where the kids needed to be dropped when our departure was delayed by two dogs strolling down the centre of the road, seemingly oblivious to the life-threatening, lunatic drivers hell-bent on getting to work on time at all costs. Serious as this was, we could not suppress our laughter – a beautiful, full-grown St Bernard male following hopefully in the footsteps of an obviously “on heat” Maltese-cross female. Hope springs eternal... Anyway, we dodged and stopped the traffic, caught the dogs and locked them safely in the property where we had just collected the monkey. We then called the Durban SPCA who collected the dogs for safe-keeping until the owners could claim them. Back to monkey business.

We had just delivered the last of three kids to school – late – when another rescue call came in. This time from Kloof. The caller said that a female monkey who seemed to be in serious trouble with birth complications had made her way onto the verandah. Explaining how easily even “almost dead” monkeys can disappear, we asked the caller to keep a close eye on the monkey until we arrived there. Unfortunately the caller was phoning from work and had to then call home to ask someone there to watch the monkey.

So we were disappointed but not surprised to arrive at the scene only to find the monkey gone and the watcher saying, “but it was here crawling sowly down the steps only five minutes ago”. Do you know how far an “almost dead” monkey can crawl in “five minutes”, lady? Anyway, we searched everywhere in the lush, well-established garden and could not find the monkey. Twenty minutes later and I was round the back of the house searching under shrubs up against the boundary wall when anxious calls from Carol had me racing around to the front of the house. There, clinging to the top of the gate post was the monkey. She was very obviously in the process of trying to give birth, and just as obviously not succeeding in delivering her baby. She was in serious trouble and we had to get her to the vet asap. In no time at all she was in a transport box and our destination was Riverside Veterinary Clinic in Durban North, and Dr Kerry Easson.

Kerry responded immediately and after hasty but careful sedation, shavi
ng and sterilizing, the monkey was on the operating table having an emergency ceasarian. Our shoulders slumped as the perfectly formed baby was lifted out of the uterus – lifeless. A little boy, his head had been crushed as birth contractions forced him into a pelvis he could not pass through because the umbilical cord had lethally wrapped around his one leg above the knee and he was being held back (photo on right).

Our attention then shifted to the very ill mom. She was exhausted, dehydrated and in severe pain from being in labour for at least a few days. Kerry cleaned, stitched and stapled her back together, gave her pain relief and antibiotics, and then all we could do was hope for the best. But she was alive and in good hands and that counted for a lot.

Next up was the guy with the snare. Some deft handwork and he started feeling the affects of the sedative that had been injected into his thigh. He was asleep in a few minutes.

Close inspection showed that the snare had been around his neck for quite some time, but ex
cept for a few centimeters where the skin had grown over the wire as it cut into the neck, the injury was relatively minor. Kerry removed the snare and stitched the worst part of the injury with dissolving suture material. After giving him pain relief and long-acting antibiotics, she said he could be released later that day after the effects of the sedative had worn off completely.

Leaving the female at Riverside to recover from the sedative and be watched over by Kerry for at least a day, and to start coming to terms with the tragic loss of the baby she had carried for seven months, we took the quickly-regaining consciousness male to our home-based high care facility for a few hours of recovery from sedation. Once he was sufficiently alert we have him a good meal, a drink and took him back to where we had trapped him. Carol’s efforts to get a photo of a monkey running out of the transport box produced a familiar result – nothing! Mostly, released monkeys don’t dawdle out of the box. A grey blur in the corner of the pic is about as good as it gets. This chap was no exception! He ran straight down a familiar path and climbed the tallest tree. We watched happily for a few minutes then left him scanning the surrounding area for sight or sound of his troop’s whereabouts.

As we drove home Carol and I spoke, as we do after every successful release, of the mixed emotions at seeing a monkey returned to his/her territory. Yes, we have rescued and treated and helped a sick or injured monkey back to health, but for how long? How long before the monkey is again in need of being rescued? Released yes, but only to once again run the lethal gauntlet of snares, traps, pellet guns, dogs, motor cars, power lines and transformers, razor wire, and malicious poisoning! Sadly, this is the tragic plight of the Vervet monkey in South Africa!

Monday, 08 September 2008

They shoot monkeys, don't they!!

Today we want to use an incident of monkey shooting that occurred on the upmarket Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate (MECCE) near Umhlanga, north of Durban, to highlight the brutal consequences of people shooting monkeys with pellet guns.
On September 1, 2008, we contacted by a resident of Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate (MECCE) in connection with an apparently injured male monkey. The caller said that the monkey had arrived at her premises in Columbia Crescent, MECCE, and spent what appeared to be an inordinate amount of time just lying down. When the troop moved off the monkey remained behind and when he did try and walk he did so with difficulty, his hindquarters obviously injured.

Arriving at the scene we quickly caught the monkey and took him to our vet, Dr Kerry Easson, of the Riverside Veterinary Clinic in Durban North. Severe bruising in the monkey’s lower belly and groin area as well as on his hip, plus the visibly out of alignment position of the left hip were all indicative of him having been struck by a motor vehicle. X-rays confirmed a fracture in the left pelvis and also revealed six airgun pellets in the monkey’s body.

It is highly likely that the effects of the pellet injuries debilitated the monkey to the extent that he was unable to cross a road quickly enough to avoid being hit by a motor car.

It is a disgrace that callous, monkey-hating residents of MECCE are able to shoot monkeys with pellet guns with impunity, whereas the monkey-loving residents on the same estate who want to feed the monkeys are threatened by the MECCE Management Association (MECCEMA) with being in breach of MECCE management rules and can be fined. We know of at least two residents who have each been fined R10 000 (ten thousand rand) each by MECCEMA. Both have paid this money to MECCEMA who then donated it to a charity of the resident’s choice.

A number of monkeys have been badly injured or killed after being shot with pellet guns at MECCE over the past two years and more. Over eighty percent of all the monkeys rescued by us and X-rayed by Dr Easson, have pellets in their bodies, and its not uncommon for there to be anywhere between two and twelve pellets in a single monkey. It’s hard to describe the agony that monkeys endure after being wounded with a pellet from an airgun. If the pellet breaks a bone, the monkey has to get around unaided and with no pain relief until the fracture heals. This can take many weeks and even months. Imagine if you had your femur smashed by a bullet and you had to go about your daily business with a badly broken leg without any medical attention, every day for weeks on end, until it healed. The pain would be unbearable. Monkeys shot in the lung or abdomen suffer indescribable agony and can take up to two weeks to die. Even if we rescue them before they die we have to euthanase them. And many monkeys are also blinded by pellets hitting them in the eye or entering the brain and severing the optic nerve. Considering that monkeys do not attack and injure humans or pets, nothing that a monkey does can be so bad that it deserves this kind of violent abuse. What makes things even worse is how often baby monkeys and pregnant females get shot.

Monkeys being shot with pellet guns is not an uncommon occurrence at MECCE, and that for this to be happening in an upmarket residential estate that markets itself as an eco-estate is indefensible. We know that this has been reported to the MECCEMA on a number of occasions, yet they have done little or nothing to stop it. If they put a fraction of the effort into punishing the shooters as they do to punishing the feeders, it would go a long way toward resolving this problem.

We are appealing to the many MECCE residents who wish the monkeys no harm to help us identify the shooters and to put pressure on the MECCEMA to take strong and decisive action against these callous and intolerant individuals.

We have now set up an urgent meeting for September 10 with the newly appointed MECCE manager in an effort to end the unjustifiable persecution of these world famous Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate monkeys. The outcome of this meeting wll be posted on our blog Wednesday evening.

PS. This information was sent out on September 2 as a press release and forms the basis of the main front page article in the September 9 edition of the Northglen News!

The monkey shown here died as the result of having ten pellets in her body, AND then being struck by a motor car on the M 19 W near Pinetown because, in her pellet-riddled state she could not avoid the cars speeding towards her on the freeway she was trying to cross.

Sunday, 07 September 2008

A week to try a monkey rescuer's resolve!

This past week, was a really mixed bag for the Monkey Helpline. In between dealing with monkey-related issues we also run one of the other ARA projects, Animal Rescues Unlimited. Which means that we often get calls about everything from shrews that have fallen into someone's pool to dogs on the road, kittens down a drain or troops of Banded Mongooses tearing up a prizewinning landscaped garden. We are even called on to help with Leopards and Pythons eating animals that the people would rather be eating themselves. This has been one of those weeks. So, by Sunday evening, we had also dealt with four dogs, two pigeons, two doves, one Hadeda Ibis, a two-meter Green Mamba and two Herald snakes. And of course, there are always the monkeys!

This is a rundown of the monkey rescues we were involved with:

Monday 1 - We've already dealt with the broken pelvis, pellet-riddled young adult male Vervet rescued on MECCE (see posting, "They shoot monkeys, don't they!!)

Tuesday 2 - No monkey rescues the entire day. Not sure if that is good or bad.

Wednesday 3 - One rescue late afternoon just as we thought we might get two consecutive rescue-free days. We responded to a call from a visitor to the Harlequins sport club on the Bluff, Durban where we found a sad young male Vervet with a badly broken back caused by a bite from another monkey. In spite of his injury he was sitting up eating when we arrived, but the moment he laid eyes on us he fled, using only his arms and dragging his paralysed lower body. What a tragically sad sight! Once caught he was boxed and immediatey taken to our vet who diagnosed a fractured spine and euthanased him immediately!

What a lousy way to end a day that had started so happily when, through one of our rescue assistants, we successfully released a recovered mother Vervet and her eight month-old baby, who had been with us for over two months, back into their troop.

Thursday 4 - Late morning a call from Shelley Beach on the KZN south coast about a sick looking monkey in a residential complex. Urgency required a quick phone call to friend Eric, Senior Inspector at the Lower South Coast SPCA, who responded immediately. He captured the monkey and took her to a vet in Margate. Advanced poisoning was the diagnosis - euthansed!

Midday and we received a call from Hillcrest saying that a large male monkey with a serious cut across his lower back was moving through the callers garden. It sounded bad so we rushed there to assess the situation first hand. We established that the cut was actually a bite sustained in a fight with another male monkey (See our earlier posting about injured male Vervets) and that it woud be better to leave the monkey to recover on his own. As a daily visitor with his troop to the caller's garden, he could be monitored to see how he was recovering. The caller felt confident that she would notice if he took a turn for the worse and would call us immediately if need be.

Just back home in Westville and a call from Kloof about a monkey struck by a motor car and lying on the side of the road. We responded immediately but due to the risk of the monkey being picked up by someone for whom monkey flesh is a sought after delicacy, we asked the Koof SPCA, situated less than 1km from the scene, to monitor the monkey until we arrived. Unfortunately the adolescent male Vervet had suffered severe head and chest injuries and was dead by the time we arrived to collect him.

Friday 5 - Dinks Riley from coastal Umhloti north of Durban called to tell us of a young monkey being seriously hammered by her troop. From her description of what was happpening to this baby we knew she would not survive much longer. We have so much experience of this kind of bullying and its tragic outcome, so we raced up to Umhloti after advising Dinks how to try and lure the baby into her home and keep her confined until we arrived. Minutes later she called back to say the monkey was in a closed bedroom awaiting our arrival. At Dinks' home we found the baby monkey sitting quietly on top of a bookshelf, and catching and boxing her in the room was very easy.

Looking at the other troop members it was very obvious that this is a troop under severe stress. So much of their habitat has been destroyed for residential development and they have to forage more and more in homes and gardens for food. With a high level of monkey-intolerance in Umhloti, they are constantly being chased by intolerant residents and hounded by yapping dogs.

Once at the Riverside Veterinary Clinic, we could see the severity of her injuries. Both eyids had bite wounds, her nose and nasal bone were mashed from a bite by a bigger monkey, her tail was badly injured and she had numerous cuts and scars all over her body, with a particularly bad bite on her one heel. Her short life in the troop of her birth must have been a constant misery, so often the case when a young monkey loses his or her mother at an early age. Vet Kerry Easson cleaned and treated her injuries and medicated her, after which she was brought home to our high care facility where Carol's TLC will be the treatment of choice for the next two weeks whilst we deliberate her future - rehabilitation or sanctuary? Definitely Return to her troop? Emphatically "NO"!

Saturday 6 - Every Saturday we have a table at the Essenwood Market in Durban. The market is very popular and is a great venue for showing people what we do and teaching them about monkeys. Its here that we launched our "Regulate the use of pellet guns" campaign the previous week (all about this camaign in a forthcoming posting).

Only rescue this day was a sick city pigeon, although there was a high number of phone calls from people having problems with monkeys.

Sunday 7 - A quiet morning and then late afternoon Monkey Helpline rescue assistant Caitlin from Amanzimtoti phoned from Port Shepstone, 120 km down the coast, to say she had picked up a baby monkey hit by a car. She said he was unconscious and breathing with difficulty. A bad time on a Sunday for finding a vet, so we agreed that she woud bring the monkey to Amanzimtoti to meet us. Less than an hour later we met her there and took over the baby monkey. We had aready phoned Kerry who said she would meet us at the clinic.

En route we got another rescue call from Sally in Sherwood, Durban. She is an old friend of the monkeys who has called us out to rescue monkeys before. This time it was a very sickly, slow moving young adult female. When we arrived at the scene the monkey was lying face down on the road and hardly put up a fight as we netted her. Second monkey aboard and we were on our way to rendevous with Kerry.

It was not a happy outcome! X-rays revealed that the baby had a crushed pelvis. Euthanased.

Then another X-ray showed that the sick female had been shot through the diaghram and lungs with a pellet. She had suffered horribly for a few days at least. Euthanased.

And thats how the rescue week ended. Not a good one!

Thursday, 04 September 2008

Education a vital tool in saving monkeys!

When writing up the daily Monkey Helpline rescue diary it is easy to get so caught up with the drama of actual rescues that we easily forget the equally important educational aspect of what the Monkey Helpline does. Fact is, that no matter how many monkeys we rescue, we will not drastically reduce the incidence of cruelty and violence against monkeys unless we change the way people think about monkeys. And this we do through the handing out of educational leaflets, and talks to schools, activity groups, Metro Police cadets, conservation and animal welfare NGO's, groups of honorary conservation officers, veterinarians and many others. In doing these talks we always try to do a PowerPoint slide-show because of the impact that the images have on the viewers. Its one thing talking about monkeys generally, but when the audience is watching images of animals who we have actually rescued, and can see the actual injuries, and we can talk about our experiences relating to that particular animal, it really gets their attention and sympathy.

Rescues also provide a good opportunity to speak to people at the site where a monkey was injured and/or rescued. Just seeing close up the trauma suffered by the monkey, and the effort the rescuers go to in order to catch and care for the animal, makes a huge impact on many of the people watching the rescue and can seriously and positively alter their thinking about monkeys.

A hidden dimension of the Monkey Helpline's daily activities is the phone calls or emails from people who are having problems with monkeys. Most of these people wish the monkeys no harm, and all they want is advice from Carol or me on how to keep the monkeys out of their house and garden. A brief chat over the phone or by email, and sending them a copy of our leaflet, "Vervet monkeys: What you need to know",is usually sufficient for these callers.

But then you get those folk who say they really dislike the monkeys and all they want is for us to come and remove the whole troop and dump it far away, failing which they will "be driven to shooting or poisoning the whole lot". This is the point at which you curse your enthusiasm in answering your partner's cellphone to give them time to dry their hands or swallow the mouthful of food they had just taken! In most cases this tendency by some callers to threaten violence against the monkeys is born of frustration at not knowing how to deal with the "problem" that confronts them. So, with heroic wads of patience in allowing the caller to offload their anger and sometimes "hatred" of monkeys, you explain how you absolutely understand why they feel about monkeys the way they do, but that they don't have to feel that way, and then start giving them the advice they need, and surprisingly often there is a metamorphosis in their attitude. This proves the point that most people who "dislike/hate" the monkeys do so out of fear or intolerance based on ignorance and a sense of helplessness. Give them the tools they need, in his case "knowledge", to deal with their "problem" humanely, and suddenly what was an unscaleable mountain for them becomes a manageable hill.

And so it is that the genuine monkey haters are way, way in the minority, yet they do have an enormous impact on the lives of monkeys as they deliberately harm and kill these little animals for no justifiable reason. You only have to look at the number of monkeys rescued by us with lead pellets in their bodies to realise that even though monkey haters are a minority, they exist in sufficient numbers to be of serious concern to us.

Just think about it. If you have forty households in a single street, some of who have problems with monkeys but opt not to harm them, and you have only one person in the street who shoots the monkeys with a pellet gun each time they come near his home, that single person can devastate the entire troop over a relatively short period of time. And in doing so causes indescribable pain, suffering and frequently death to the affected monkeys.

And just as bad as the shooting is for the monkeys, so is the attitude of the neighbours who know who is doing the shooting but won't do anything about it because they don't want to sour relations with the shooter. As Carol always says about this: "Who wants to maintain good relations with a neighbour who cruelly harms the animals you claim to love, or at least care about? Would you want to maintain such good relations with a neighbour who shot your child with a pellet gun? Something doesn't quite make sense here."

Back to rescues. A few days ago I wrote about injured adult male Vervets, and how we decide whether of not to attempt a rescue. Well, no day is complete in the lives of the Monkey Helpline rescue team if we don't get at least one call from someone concerned about a "badly" injured male monkey.

And so on Spring Day, September 1st, our first call of the day was from an old friend of the monkeys to say that a huge male Vervet who had been visiting her home in Malvern, Durban regularly for years, always on his own and gentle as anything, had arrived with his one eye totally removed. After establishing from her that he was otherwise fit and healthy and seemed to be coping well with only one eye, we asked her to monitor him and to contact us immediately if she thought he was in trouble due to his injury.

We see a surprisingly high number of rescued Vervets with a blind eye, and we always wonder if the loss of an eye contributes to the monkey being injured and so having to be rescued, especially in cases of injury by another monkey, a dog or a motor car.

Then our last rescue call of the day was from a resident of Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate, scene of the current National Geographic series on Vervets, "Street Monkeys". From the caller's description we knew that this monkey needed to be seen by a vet. When we arrived at the caller's home she was sitting less than a meter from the monkey, a young adult male, who seemed comfortable enough sitting and eating the food she was handing him as per our request in order to keep him from moving off before we arrived. As Carol and I approached, the monkey moved off a meter or so and it was immediately obvious that there was something seriously wrong with his pelvis, most probably the result of being hit by a car. We quickly caught him and rushed off to Riverside Veterinary Clinic where Dr Kerry Easson took X-rays. No surprises when the X-ray showed that he had a broken pelvis. Nor were we surprised by the X-ray image of the six lead pellets in his body. The upmarket estate where we caught him is marketed as an eco-estate, yet we regularly find monkeys injured or killed there by people using pellet guns with total disregard for the suffering they are responsible for. (We'll deal with this in an upcoming posting!)

Unlucky to have been shot six times. Unlucky to have been struck by a motor car. Lucky to have been spotted by an observant and caring person who called the Monkey Helpline. Lucky to have been caught and taken to a good vet. Lucky to be in the Monkey Helpline high care unit run by Carol while he recovers and can then be released back to his troop. And hopefully the outcome of an urgent meeting we have set up with the Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate manager will lead to action that will effectively address the problem of monkeys being shot with pellet guns on the estate. Six pellets in the body are half-a-dozen more than is healthy for any monkey to have to live with!

NB. Four out of five episodes of the series, "Street Monkeys", currently being screened on National Geographic Wildlife Channel, feature a number of rescues by, and interviews with, coordinators of the Monkey Helpline.

Tuesday, 02 September 2008

Last three days of August 2008!!

Arriving home at 12.30 in the morning of Friday 29 after a round trip of almost 400 km down the KZN south coast to release a young monkey back into his troop at Mtwalume, and then on to Cragsview Wildcare Centre beyond Port Edward to hand over a young female Blue Duiker we had rescued from fencing the previous day, should have prepared us for the weekend that fate had planned for us. But it didn't! Waking up just a few hours later, knowing we had to leave for a three day ARA workshop at Royal Natal National Park by 12.00 on the same day, we naively set about the chores we had set ourselves to do so that we could stick to our planned departure time. No such luck!

Just as Carol and I were starting to congratulate ourselves on our impeccable timing, something most people who know us would have laughed at, we got a call about a monkey struck by a car in Umhloti, 45 km away. After the usual questions about the condition of the monkey, the exact location, and the possibility of the caller containing the animal, we dropped everything and rushed out to "rescue" the unfortunate animal, who from the caller's description was an adult female.

Traveling as fast as responsibly possible, we were on the M19 E when, believe it or not, a monkey was hit by a car just a few hundred meters ahead of us, and as usual the driver didn't even slow down. Stopping as quickly as I could we still overshot the monkey by at least 200 meters. Reversing back up the freeway we stopped right opposite the monkey where it lay in the middle of the road. I just managed to retrieve her body before it was claimed by a person who had seen the incident whilst traveling in the opposite direction. He already had visions of a sumptious meal, but I had other visions and his angry expletives and and gestures fell on deaf ears as Carol took the monkey from me and cradled her limp body on her lap. Her eyes filled with tears as she felt the distressed movements of the doomed baby in the womb. The mother-to-be was dead and we coud do nothing to save he baby. The movements got weaker and weaker until the unborn baby too was dead.

We arrived in Umhloti only to be told by our caller that that monkey had died and so was left unwatched at the side of the road. We searched but could not find her and after watching the remainder of her troop move out of sight up the hill we had to accept that she was en route to becoming someone's meal.

Midday, and two dead female Vervet monkeys plus one, and possible two, dead unborn babies. August was starting to look like a normal month! We stopped off at our vet to complete rescue/admission forms for the dead monkeys and to hand in the body of the female and her unborn baby for incineration.

Then home again to complete our chores and depart for the weekend workshop - we thought!!

Only 0ne-and-a-half hours past our planned departure time and we were still looking good for a daylight arrival in the mountains, 300 km away.

Then the third rescue call of the day! In Phoenix Industrial Park 30 km away, a steel factory manager had seen his security guard arrive at work and place a cardboard box in a corner. Telling the guard to open the box so he could check the contents, he saw a bloodied monkey who then jumped out of the box and stumbled into the factory. He cordoned off the area and called Monkey Helpline. We again dropped everything and rushed off to do the rescue. Anxiety at what we would find turned to frustration when we were diverted along an aternative, roundabout route due to an accident, but we finally arrived to find the monkey lying face down on the factory floor amidst laser cutting and welding of steel. Another adult female, also pregnant. Her injuries, a badly swollen right eye and deep lacerations to her neck and left shoulder, suggested she was our third motor vehicle accident victim of the day. Carol coud feel her baby moving so hopefully he/she would survive. As for the security guard who had picked her up and put her in the box thinking she as dead, he was livid at being deprived of his "food"! But our sympathies were with the monkey and her unborn baby...

In her almost comatose state, we left her with the vet and on enquiring later about her condition we learnt that after treatment she was still in a bad way but surviving. She stayed with the vet throughout the weekend receiving constant attention and treatment when necessary. Today we brought her home to our High Care facility wher Carol will take care of her and nurse her to recovery. If she does recover fully, we will try to establish the whereabouts of her troop so that hopefully she can be returned to her family. Failing this she will be moved into either a rehabilitation programme or to the Tumbili Primate Sanctuary near Pietermaritzburg.

Finally, daylight almost gone and we were on our way to the mountains. But fate had one more rescue planned for us. At 6.30 pm and one hour into our journey another phone call, our second from Umhloti for the day. A young monkey caught by the hind legs in a snare. Too far away to attend to it ouselves we called on our trusty network of rescue assistants. Fortunately, Doug, better known for his sterling cat trap and sterilise programme, was at our vet and responded immediately to our call for help. Accompanied by Dr Eason, he raced off to help the little monkey. Even more fortunately, monkey lovers, Garth and Mandy, living in the same road as our caller, rushed to the scene and retrieved the monkey. They took the little chap home from where Doug and Dr Easson collected him and took him back to the clinic for treatment.

No broken bones but the snare had caught him around both legs and caused severe injuries and cut off circulation. Dr Easson did what she could but told us she was not hopeful of saving his legs.

Back home in Westville after the weekend workshop our first destination was the Riverside Veterinary Clinic to check on the monkeys there. You already know about the adult female. The youngster, probably only about six months old and still suckling on his mother, looked a dejected sight with his two bandaged legs. We cleaned his cage, fed him and left him there overnight. This morning we returned and after being sedated Dr Easson unbandaged the legs. Our hearts sank as we saw the extent of the damage caused by the snare. Both legs were totaly dead and necrotic from just below the knee. We could save his life by amputating both lower legs, but life without the use of his legs woud be no life at all. Dr Easson did the kind thing and another monkey soul drifted away.

And then it was Saturday.

Before breakfast a friend from the Bluff called to say he had succeeded in catching an injured baby from the troop that frequents his house and garden. It had taken him two days to lure the baby into his house so that he coud catch him. The baby had severe bite-wounds to the head and was in desperate need of veterinary attention. We directed Ian to Dr Easson who was already at the clinic. She assessed the little monkey and found that he had abcesses into his open skull and was beyond recovery. Again she did the kind thing and another baby monkey soul was released.

Then at 10.30 am another rescue call. Another monkey hit by a motor car, this time on the M4 north of Umhlanga. Again a trusty rescue assistant rushed to the scene but to no avail. The monkey who the caller had seen crawling to the side of the road after being struck by the car, was nowhere to be found. Another monkey ending up in the pot? It was with mixed feeings that we learnt on Monday that the monkey, once again an adult female, had been picked up by good samaritan, Sue Friedman, and moved into the bushes a distance off the road. She was already dead but was struck by another car just as Sue arrived at the scene.

Sunday was no less unkind to the monkeys.

On our way home from the weekend workshop in the mountains we received our first rescue call at around midday. It was an adult male monkey moving very slowly with no obvious injuries but in serious trouble none-the-less. From the description of his behaviour he seemed either blind or delirious from infection. Too far to respond ourselves, we again called on a friend to help out. He hastened to the scene where the monkey had in the meantime crawled under a garden shed. Efforts to catch him were unsuccessful and the monkey, obviously not blind, escaped over the fence into a deep, densely vegetated gorge. Chances of him climbing back out of the gorge in his weak state are slim. But as always we remain hopeful.

We arrived home at 2.00 pm and were still unpacking when the second rescue call came in - another adult male monkey, this time with a snare around his neck. We were able to respond and arrived at the scene in Hillary, Durban just in time to see the injured monkey leading his troop across the road into the bushes. Fortunately Carol had brought along her bag of irresistible goodies and soon had the injured monkey eating a short distance away. A thin wire snare was very visible around his neck and a fair amount of blood around the neck area indicated that in struggling to break loose from the snare it had cut into his neck. We were unable to get close enough to him to attempt a net capture, but knowing that he visits the caller's home most days with his troop to share the generous offerings on the bird table, we are confident that we will trap him in the next few days.

August now gone.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Injured male monkeys: To rescue or not!

Measured against the normally frenetic rate of rescues that have characterised the first seven months of this year, August, with the exception of the last three days, has actually been a relatively quiet month for the Monkey Helpine rescue team. Not that we have been idle - rescues have still kept us busy every day but a high number of calls were about male Vervets injured during fights, and most of these did not result in an attempt to capture of the animal concerned. What we do when we receive any call about a Vervet who might need rescuing, is ask the caller a number of pertinent questions. For example: Where exactly is the monkey? Is it an adult or baby monkey, and what is the size and gender of the monkey? Is the animal alone or is the troop around? What is it about the monkey that concerns the caller (if possible, describe the injury)? Is the monkey bleeding? Is the monkey alert? Is the monkey moving easily or with difficulty? Do there appear to be any broken limbs? How long has the monkey been around? Is the monkey reacting to any food being offered? ... and so on! Obviously the range of questions is adapted according to the answers given by the caller, which also determine how we respond to the call.

In the case of male monkeys we can determine fairly accurately from the answers received whether the injury is from a fight with another monkey. If we decide that this is the case, and also feel that he can recover without our intervention, and that the injuries will not debiliate him to the extent that he cannot defend himself against, or if necessary escape from, attackers then we will usually not go out and attempt a rescue. We explain our reasoning to the caller and ensure that the caller understands and is comfortable with our decision. However, if necessary we will respond immediately and attempt to capture the animal. We realise that every time we capture an injured male Vervet that we might be neutralising the effort he has put into defending his position and status in the troop and territory. After all, he might be injured but he has been victorius, and then we come along, capture him and undo all his hard work. In his absence the defeated male can walk into the troop unapposed and possibly even have entrenched himself by the time the recovered male is released back to his troop. So an understanding of Vervet troop society and dynamics is a crucially important aspect of rescuing. The decision to remove, even for a very short time, any male monkey from his territory, is one not lightly taken!

In most cases we decide to go and view the situation for ourselves and only then make a decision to rescue or not after we have seen the animal concerned. Wherever possible we make use of our network of rescue assistants to either go and rescue the animal if they can, or assess its condition and advise us wherther a rescue is necessary or not, or to monitor the monkey until we arrive to carry out the rescue.

Fortunately, most of the injured male monkeys called in during August will recover without our intervention. And it is always easier for us to make this judgement call when the monkey is a regular visitor to the caller's home. Then we ask them to monitor the animal and notify us if he appears to be struggling to recover. We tell them what signs to look out for. If they do call us again out of concern or uncertainty about the animal, we will go and observe him and make our decision about whether or not to capture him. Alternatively we call back later in the day, or the next day, and for as long as we think it necessary to find out how the monkey is doing.

As for the last three days of August, read about it in the next posting!

The Monkey Helpline: Who we are and what we do!

One of the privileges that goes with living in the eastern and north eastern regions of South Africa is that we also have Vervet monkeys living around our homes, schools, parks and even our factories. And with the presence of monkeys we also have mixed emotions about them. But love them or hate them, even be indifferent to them, they are here to stay IF we can educate and enlighten enough people to care about who monkeys really are!

Those people who dislike or fear monkeys are directly, and indirectly, responsible for the unwarranted bad press they get and also most of the terrible suffering they endure every day.

So what are we, the Monkey Helpline, based in Westville near Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, doing for people and the Vervet monkeys?

To start with, we devote much of our time to educating people about the reasons why the monkeys are here, why monkeys behave the way they do, the things people should do or not do when monkeys are around, and how to humanely keep monkeys away from those places where they are not welcome. Just knowing that monkeys will NOT attack and bite people, and that they DON’T carry rabies, is enough to change antagonism and fear into tolerance and appreciation in many cases.

We also run a rescue operation and a high care unit. We rescue an average of three monkeys every two days, and their injuries range from wounds sustained during fights with other monkeys, dog bites, being run over by motor vehicles, electrocution, being snared, trapped or poisoned, and being shot with pellet guns, catapults and firearms. Many are babies who are orphaned or injured when mother monkeys are attacked. Over eighty percent of the monkeys we rescue, irrespective of the reason why, have got pellets lodged in their bodies. Pellets cause terrible pain, suffering and a lingering death, and no person, adult or child should ever shoot monkeys with a pellet gun. As the only dedicated monkey rescue project in KwaZulu-Natal, the Monkey Helpline is available to do rescues 24 hours a day, every day! On any given day we are treating between ten and twelve monkeys in our high care unit – sometimes as many as eighteen!

Education is a vital tool in our hands and we distribute thousands of information leaflets, and we often visit schools to do talks about the monkeys. We also do talks to many other interest groups such as police cadets, garden clubs, conservation bodies, body corporates, etc.

The Monkey Helpline is a volunteer group and all our services are free of charge. However, Monkey Helpline is self-funded and donations towards the substantial rescue (including petrol and cell phone), veterinary and after-care costs are desperately needed.

For more information about Vervet monkeys and how to live with them, contact Carol or Steve HERE.