Saturday, 12 September 2009

Victims of crime!

This continues to be a quiet week compared to the normally frenetic pace we operate at. Not complaining, but hoping too that I get the chance to watch the Boks give the All Blacks a hiding in their own back yard later today and so also clinch the 2009 Tri-Nations Cup.

But seriously, there have been relatively few monkey rescue callouts this week. We did rescue one Herald snake, a fruit bat and an adolescent Banded Mongoose. We got a callout to a pair of Egyptian geese and fourteen goslings walking the streets of Westville looking for a safe place to settle. Our search for them was futile but, unless someone else got to them before us, hopefully for compassionate reasons, we will get another callout soon. Of this I am sure.

Talking of Egyptian geese, read the following letter sent by us to the Berea Mail recently:

Coordinators of the Durban-based Animal Rights Africa project, Animal Rescues Unlimited (ARU), Carol Booth and Steve Smit, are appealing to Berea residents to notify them as soon as they become aware of any Egyptian Geese already nesting or wanting to nest in trees or on buildings anywhere on the Berea.

“Last week we rescued six newly-hatched goslings and their parents from the roof-garden of a well known high-rise block of flats in Musgrave Road.,” said Carol (Pic on the right). “Three other goslings had already fallen from eight floors up and miraculously survived. It was a very nerve-wracking experience for us. As we arrived on the roof of the flats, the parent geese were trying to coax the six goslings to drop over the edge. With our hearts in our mouths we managed to get them to move away from the edge and into a passage where they were all captured and safely confined.”

Carol said that it was common for Egyptian Geese to nest at various locations on the Berea. “Their natural nesting sites are in large trees and on cliff ledges, and it is not uncommon for them to breed on top of the large nests of the Hammerkop or to use the abandoned nests of other large birds. However, the ledges and rooftops of manmade buildings are an attractive alternative to natural nesting sites for these large, beautiful birds. Once the goslings hatch the parents must lead them to the closest suitable open water around which they graze and grow until they are old enough to fly off.”

“Unfortunately, on the Berea and in other urban areas where these geese have taken to nesting, open water and suitable grazing are not easily reached without the parent geese have to lead their little goslings across treacherous roads and through hazardous gardens where motor cars, dogs and cats take a terrible toll,” said Carol. “It is heartbreaking to go out on a rescue, like the one we carried out in Essenwood Road last year, and find seven out of a brood of eleven goslings already flattened by motor cars. To see the futility of the brave parent geese standing between their young and an approaching car as a vehicle approaching from he opposite direction squashes two goslings behind their backs is enough to bring tears to the toughest heart. We saw this happen and it was horrible!”

“The Berea is generally not a good place for these geese to hatch their young,” said Steve. “The best they can hope for, if the goslings do not die falling off a high roof or ledge onto concrete, is that they survive the cars, dogs, cats and people and find their way into someone’s garden and swimming pool. Lawns are wonderful grazing sites for the geese and their goslings, but most people are not happy to share their pool with a family of geese. And even though the goslings can swim well shortly after hatching, they cannot stay in water for extended periods without becoming waterlogged and hypothermic and many end up drowning in swimming pools because they are unable to get out when they need to.”

Rescuing geese from roads, rooftops, gardens and swimming pools on the Berea has become an ongoing, annual mission for ARU, as well as for organizations like CROW, the SPCA and many of the backyard bird-care groups and individuals.

“If we can get to the geese nests and treat the eggs before incubation starts, we can humanely prevent the eggs from developing,” said Steve. “This will greatly reduce the number of sad and unnecessary gosling deaths we all have to deal with on the Berea every year. Please help us to help these birds.”. Ends.

Then suddenly today we had another two monkey rescue callouts.

The first was to Kloof to a young adult male with a severe, open injury to his right ankle. The bones are exposed and separated at the ankle and if we don’t capture him within a day or two for veterinary treatment we won’t be able to save that leg. As it is he has permanently lost normal use of the foot. He is also in great pain and needs our help urgently. Unfortunately he had been very well fed by the time we arrived on the scene and did not respond to our efforts to lure him close enough for capture. With a bit of luck we’ll catch him tomorrow.

Mid-afternoon, after leaving the vet with two young monkeys that we had taken for a check-up, we got a callout to a monkey run over by a car on Trematon Drive near Burman Bush in Morningside. Whilst the caller was on the phone to Carol, I got a call from a second witness to the same incident. Unfortunately the little monkey, a youngster from the last baby season, was already dead by the time we arrived at the scene.

Of course, the day also was punctuated with the usual calls from people with monkey problems. But its heartening that so many people change their attitude to monkeys as soon as we tell them a bit about monkeys – why the monkeys are here, why monkeys behave they way they do in given situations, and how people should and shouldn’t behave when monkeys are around. We will win this one for the monkeys yet. You mark my words!.

A bit earlier this evening I was going through my emails and reading about the number of dogs and cats looking for good homes because their “owners” are emigrating (I’ll share my thoughts on this some other time when there is not much new monkey news to post).
Crime in this country is given as one of the primary reasons for this exodus. Aren’t these people fortunate to have the resources and means to seek greener pastures? Not so fortunate are the monkeys who are as frequently as us humans also the victims of crime.

How so?

Take a quick peek at the pic on the right at the top of this page. Does this monkey have freedom of movement? Definitely not! Like hundreds, even thousands, of other monkeys do every day, he has to negotiate his foraging route through razor wire, along spiked fences and walls, across gardens with vicious guard dogs, in-between strands of electric fencing, and past pellet gun wielding lunatics who own pellet guns as much for the sense of macho security it gives them, as to be able to shoot at monkeys, dogs, cats, birds and anything else that their deficient brains inspire them to do, presuming of course that they have a brain!

Every step of the way is fraught with danger directly linked to security measure people take in their efforts to protect themselves against criminals. Too often we have to pick up the victims. Monkeys caught on or ripped to shreds on razor wire, or shocked senseless on faulty electric fencing, or brutally savaged by guard dogs, or impaled on fence spikes, or suffering from the wounds caused by lead pellets. On more than a few occasions we have rescued severely injured monkeys, or picked them up dead, who have been run over by racing, private security vehicles responding to a crime-related callout.

Collateral damage? Not really! Sadly just another category of innocent victims of the South African crime wave!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Baby births begin!!!

Yes, its definitely starting to happen. We have hardly seen a troop of Vervets these last few days that doesn’t have at least one proud mom with a tiny little black-furred baby clinging to her chest. Our friend Brenda, who lives in Manor Gardens, Durban emailed us some delightful news yesterday, and the relevant part of her email follows:

“I just wanted to pass on to you some very interesting "news." I keep an eye on the monkeys that visit our garden in Manor Gardens and noticed that one of the pregnant females is exceptionally "large." I suspected that she may be carrying twins but thought it was unlikely because as far as I know it is quite rare. Well to my surprise, when I saw her yesterday she has delivered her babies and she has had twins! She looked fine and the babies as well. She was struggling a little as she moved around because she was supporting them with her one front limb.

I have tried to find information about what the chance of survival is, for both the babies but have been unable to find anything conclusive. I will keep watching them and I hope that both will thrive.

By the way, I noticed that one of the other mothers has also given birth already. Two of the other younger females were already trying to carry it around!”

We replied to Brenda: “Very exciting that your monk has had twins. Not sure if the survival of both is well documented but I think it is very possible if she has good support from her offspring of three and four years ago, or maybe even another close female who doesn't have a baby this year.”

We’ll definitely monitor those babies to see how the mom copes, and if necessary, and we are able to, we will intervene. Let’s hope for the best! We will try to get a photo of the mom and twins and share it with you in a future post.

It has actually been a relatively quiet week so far by our normal standards. No sight yet of the Umhlanga troop that we need to return our rescued, pregnant female to, but Vincent, our man on site, says he will call us the instant he sees them.

This past Monday morning we were called out by Sharon Pillay for a young monkey struck by a car in front of her house in Greenwood Park (Carol with monkey in pic below). We arrived at the scene to find that the year old youngster had stumbled to the neighours front gate and climbed halfway up, where we found her totally dazed and disorientated. We rushed her straight to Kerry, our vet who happened to be on her last day of leave. A thorough check revealed slight bleeding of the right upper lip, no broken teeth or bones and so Kerry suggested we take the baby home and wait for her to recover. By midday she was raring to go and we decided that we would attempt to find her troop the next day.

Tuesday came and went and n
o sign of the troop. Then today, whislt we were in the midst of cleaning cages and feeding the monkeys in our “high care”, Sharon, who had called us on Monday to rescue the little monkey, phoned to tell us excitedly that the troop was at her house. We covered the fifteen kilometers from our house to Sharon’s as fast as we legally (sort of) could, hoping like crazy that the monkeys wouldn’t leave before we arrived, something that can happen so easily when trying o return a monkey to its troop or to try and rescue an injured monkey.

Such excitement when we rounded the last bend and saw monkeys all over the place. Our little monkey’s response to having her box put out in full view of the other monkeys left us in no doubt as to where she wanted to be. I opened the box and grabbed her by the tail, gently lifting her out of the box whilst getting screamed at by her for my efforts, and had the troop leader run to within a meter of me threatening me with all sorts of violence if I did not release the youngster immediately. So, deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, I did exactly as he said and off the little monkey raced, delighted to be back with her kin.

There can be few better feelings than the successful reintroduction of a rescued little monkey to its troop. And to top it all, the entire process was watched over from an adjacent rooftop by two Vervet moms with brand new babies. Carol and I were elated. Things could have ended very differently for the little monkey. Had Sharon’s husband not seen the baby lying to the side of the road as he left for work, and asked Sharon to call for help, then another car might have run over her, someone else could have picked her up and carried her off, or a dog could have caught her as she tried to follow her troop. But none of that happened! We are seriously in need of a lot more happy endings like this one!

Yesterday also saw us make an early start for the two hour trip to Empangeni to talk to the pupils of the Zululand Remedial School. Aged between seven and fourteen years old the one hundred and ninety-two boys and girls and their teachers were a wonderfully attentive, responsive audience, making the journey there and back well worthwhile. They were very impressed when we told them at the start of the presentation that by the end of it they would know more about Vervet monkeys than almost all of the six billion other humans they share the planet with!

Sharing our love and respect for monkeys, other animals and the natural environment with as many school children and other groups as we are able to, is a vitally important art of what we do via the Monkey Helpline. Already this year we have spoken to tens of thousands of learners at more than seventy schools, handed out many thousands of information sheets, and initiated monkey “feeding stations” at four schools, amongst many other things.

We know that the future of urban Vervet monkeys lies in the hands of people who understand and respect them, and also know what to do or not to do when monkeys are around! Are you one of those people?

Tuesday, 08 September 2009

How many deaths will it take till we know...

Its that time of the year again when pregnant Vervet mothers are getting to the end of their seven month pregnancy. It’s a bad time for them because they are that much slower than usual and so are more vulnerable than usual to being hit by motor cars as they cross roads, being caught by dogs as they pass through gardens or shot by sadistic, pellet gun wielding morons as they forage for food in residential areas.

In the past two weeks we have rescued a young adult, first-time pregnant, Vervet from other monkeys who had viciously attacked her over the course of a few days. Her injuries were bad but not life-threatening, if correctly treated – which was done by our vet, Dr Kerry Easson of Riverside Veterinary Clinic, Durban North. Unfortunately, this extremely stressed young monkey aborted her baby ten days after being rescued. It was so very sad watching her as she gently touched her perfect, but dead, baby lying in the bottom of her cage . After giving her a short while to deal with her loss, we removed both baby and afterbirth. Hopefully she will be able to enjoy the proud pleasure of her own baby next year.

Another female in an advanced stage of pregnancy was hit by a motor vehicle right outside Equitack, the animal feed store in Assagay where we buy our monkey nuts and bird food. The monkey-friendly staff there called us immediately and we managed to get the monkey to Kerry within an hour. Having taken a terrible blow to the head she was in a comatose state and had to be syringe fed. After being in our care for a few days she started a spontaneous abortion of her baby. Not having the conscious ability to deal with this process she was in danger of dying a slow and painful death. We rushed her to Kerry who, after establishing that the baby was definitely dead, did the necessary surgery (pic on the left) to try and save the mother’s life. Opening the blood-filled womb Kerry found a dead baby and a totally detached placenta – the result of a severe impact to her body as she was hit by the car. We were devastated when, after seeming to rally well after the operation, she died during the night.

Last Thursday we rescued a young female Vervet in Umhlanga – see our previous Blog post - who was inexplicably blind and in a total daze. She was also heavily pregnant! Within a day-and-a-half she fully regained sight and also her awareness, and she seems totally recovered from whatever afflicted her. Her unborn baby too seems fine and she is now very ready for release as is obvious from her constant attempts to escape from her holding cage. Our plans to release her this past Sunday came to nought as we were unable to find her troop and were very reluctant to release her to face the world without the support back-up of her troop-mates. Fortunately we met a security guard close by who knows her troop well. He is on duty six-to-six every day and will phone us as soon as he sees her troop. It will be good to have a happy ending to this rescue!

Not so good the ending to the rescue we were called out on this afternoon. A mature female Vervet in the late stages of pregnancy was hit by a car in Umhlanga Rocks Drive, La Lucia Ridge. We received a call from Paul who said his wife had phoned him to say she had seen a monkey run over and that she had stopped to try and prevent other cars running over it as it dragged itself to the centre island and into a flower bed. We aso got a call from Mark who said he had seen the same monkey dragging herself over the road with cars literally driving over her, their wheels just missing her.

Tragically she died in Carol’s arms at the vet clinic as Kerry, who was on leave for the day and had responded immediately to our call for help, arrived to attend to her. The baby in her womb was still alive but unable to survive such a premature entry into this world, so with heavy hearts we watched as Kerry euthanased it.

Right now this world really is not a good place for monkeys. Fortunately we get great support for our animal rescue work from the Caxton group of community newspapers, which is what happened last year when the Northglen News asked us for a piece on how people can help monkeys, and especially moms and babies at this time of the year. What we sent them follows and formed the basis of their published article on the subject. The same article would not be out of place or time if published by them, and other newspapers in the group, again this year:

"The following in response to your request:

This is the time of year when, after about 200 days of pregnancy, female Vervet monkeys are giving birth to their babies. It is a very dangerous time for mothers and babies. Because urban and industrial development has impacted so heavily on the monkeys’ habitat, they have to cross many roads and pass through gardens with vicious dogs just to be able to get around their territory looking for food very day. Heavily pregnant mothers, and mothers with babies, are at even greater risk because it is so much more difficult for them to cross roads quickly, scale high perimeter walls or climb into trees when they are trying to avoid motor cars or fierce dogs. “As a consequence, many of these pregnant females or mothers with newly born babies are hit by motor cars or caught by dogs, resulting in the death or serious injury of both the mother and baby, or premature birth and death of the baby” says Monkey Helpline rescuer and spokesperson, Carol Booth.

“This year the Monkey Helpline has rescued more injured, heavily pregnant female monkeys than at any time in the past,” says Booth. “In recent weeks our high care facility has resembled a maternity ward full of injured, pregnant mothers. The sad thing is that with the exception of only two out twelve, they have all lost their babies due to the trauma they have suffered.”

Booth also said that from the number of reports received from Monkey Helpline monitors and members of the public, there is also a higher than before number of mother monkeys carrying around dead babies. “This could be the result of the drought we have been experiencing as well as extremely high stress levels that the monkeys have to endure in the increasingly monkey-unfriendly world they are being forced to try and survive in.” she said.

Booth says that the Monkey Helpline has even rescued a female monkey whose baby was killed in her womb after it was hit by two pellets from a pellet gun. “She was very obviously pregnant and the callous person who shot her must have known this.”

Booth appealed to motorists to help pregnant monkeys by slowing down when they noticed monkeys crossing the roads and to be alert to the possibility of a young monkey darting across the road in an effort to catch up to its mother. And dog-owners should control or confine their dogs when the monkeys are around. “As we have said, the heavily pregnant and new mother monkeys are much slower than the other monkeys and they need any help we can spare.”

Lastly, even though the sight of monkeys carrying babies often evokes a response that “there are monkeys everywhere” and that a monkey “population explosion” is imminent, nothing could be further from the truth. Most baby monkeys, over seventy-five percent in fact, die before they reach adulthood. “Added to this devastating juvenile death rate is the high number of older monkeys being killed on our roads, killed by dogs, shot with pellet guns, caught in snares and traps, poisoned, etc, - we are definitely looking at the reality of urban monkey extinction in the not to distant future if things don’t improve drastically for the monkeys. No population of animals, no matter how adaptive to changing conditions, can survive such an indiscriminate onslaught. Over extended periods the Monkey Helpline rescues an average of three monkeys every two days. Over a recent two-day period we rescued eight injured and dying monkeys, half of whom were heavily pregnant mothers.”

Given our experiences over the past few weeks, things are not going to be any better for pregnant monkey moms, or new moms and babies, this year. I would so love to be wrong!!

Friday, 04 September 2009

Pellets, pellets and more pellets!

It is a fact that monkeys are going to be injured, even killed, in ways that we can have little control over. We do our best to minimise the harm that befalls these little animals whose continued presence in the urban environment is more a testimony to their survival skills and adaptability than it is the result of our efforts to protect them. But dogs, motor vehicles, power lines and razor wire will inevitibly take their toll of monkey lives and the best we can do is create an awareness that will see people having better control over their dogs, driving with care, insulating and excluding live power lines wherever possible, and being aware of the threat their security measures hold for all animals. This and much more we can continue to do, and where monkeys still fall victim to these dangers we can only hope and trust that someone with compassion and a sense of social responsibility will notice and call on us or any other capable entity to come to the rescue.

But when it comes to the death and suffering caused by the malicious intolerance of the pellet gun-wielding nazis who pollute our society with their toxic presence there can be no excuses, no exceptions and we must do everything in our power to identify and punish these morally retarded cretins.

Too often, almost daily in fact, we see the destructive effects of pellets in monkeys. It may come as a surprise to those who don't read our leaflets and press articles, attend our talks, or visit our blog or our website, or engage us in discussion to discover that over eighty percent of the monkeys we rescue have been shot with pellets. We cannot publicise this fact often enough. So, as frequently as we are able to, we approach our contacts in the media for their assistance, and the following letter to the editor of a community newspaper was one such attempt to expose another case of gross cruelty and suffering:

"Dear Editor,

A few days ago we were called out to do a monkey rescue in Umhlanga. What we found when we arrived at the scene was a large, fully mature but very thin male Vervet who was obviously in severe pain and close to death.

We rushed him to Riverside Veterinary Clinic where X-rays revealed four lead pellets still lodged in his body. Humane euthanasia was the kindest option, and as we have done so often we watched silently as his body relaxed into instant and pain-free, but so unnecessary, death.

A post mortem showed the internal wounds and abscesses caused by the pellets. The vet confirmed that he must have endured terrible suffering!

Then it occurred to me that the heartless monster for, whom a bit of monkey mess in his home, or the loss of a few bananas, apples, or paw-paws, or the monkey “teasing” his dogs was so unbearable that it justified shooting the monkey with a pellet gun, was not actually getting the full benefit his efforts deserved. I mean, all he would get for his callous efforts would be the sight of a monkey leaping in pain and running from something it hadn’t actually seen. Surely scant pleasure for one so sadistically intolerant!

So I am making this offer to all the bloodthirsty bullies who think nothing of inflicting pain and suffering on the innocent monkeys who are trying to survive as best they can in an increasingly monkey-unfriendly world.

When next you shoot a monkey with a pellet gun, feel free to contact me and tell me about it. Then, if the monkey doesn’t die unnoticed and terrified under some bush, but is fortunate enough to be rescued by us, I can call you to come and inspect the effects of your ghastly deed. You would get so much more value for your efforts if you could witness the terrible suffering your victim has endured. You deserve to see what your pellets have done to the monkey’s internal organs – the adhesions which painfully inhibit breathing, digestion and even free movement as body parts grow onto each other in an effort to heal the damage caused by your pellet as it smashed through soft tissue spilling blood and digested food into the body cavity. You really need to see the laboured breathing of a monkey with its one lung collapsed and its chest slowly filling with its own blood until it suffocates or dies of heart-failure, all caused by your pellet.

Why shoot a monkey in the eye if you can’t watch it running blindly into trees and walls and under the wheels of motor cars? Why shoot a monkey in the leg, smashing its femur and ripping muscle from bone if you can’t watch it shivering in excruciating pain and unable to sleep as infection sets in and eventually kills it days, or even weeks, later? This and so much more you are missing out on!

My offer is sincere. Feel free to contact me and I promise to give you full value for your dastardly deed. Then I’ll do my darnedest to have you arrested, prosecuted and locked up. It’s the very least a scumbag like you deserves!

To those tolerant and caring people in Umhlanga north for whom the presence of monkeys is a source of pride and joy, and who had got used to the stately presence of the big male Vervet with the short tail who gently helped himself to the odd piece of food from your home and looked disdainfully down at your noisy dogs, you won’t see him any more. He is dead!

Yours faithfully"

And yes, many monkeys are also shot by chidren who don't really understand the consequences of their actions, either because they have never been taught to respect and care for animals, or because they don't understand what lethal power their pellet gun has, or because they have a parent or parents who actively encourage them to shoot monkeys and other animals. But we also know that many monkeys are shot by adults, mostly men, who do understand the consequences of shooting a monkey with a pellet gun. Adults who deliberately want to cause harm and even death. Truth is that once the pellet hits the monkey it makes no difference who squeezed the trigger or why!

And talking of who squeezed the trigger, so often we are asked if there is a pattern to where we find monkeys being shot with pellets. I suppose there is the belief that this kind of cruelty can only happen in specific communities. As can be seen from the preceding letter, affluent societies are not a cruety-free zone for monkeys. Just a few days ago we rescued a female monkey from Umhhlanga. She was unable to see and in in a complete daze. The vet's preliminary check could find no sign of injury or physical trauma other than a slight discharge from one eye. Then an X-ray revealed eight lead pellets in her body, miracuously none of which had struck a vital organ, or the unborn baby in her womb. Inexplicably she regained her sight and full awareness within two days and later today will be released back where we found her. The point is that two of the monkeys specifically referred to in this blog were shot in an affluent area.

The female monkey on the right was shot many times, probably by a few differnt people over time, before we rescued her in Amanzimtoti. The day we caught her she had been shot just below the left eye and the pellet had exited above the eye, just missing blinding her totally. As the photo shows she has already lost her right eye to a pellet which, as seen in the X-ray photo below, is still embedded in the bone at the back of the eye socket.

All of which begs the question: "What are we doing about the pellet gun menace? "

Other than widely distributing our pellet gun leaflet which encourages people to identify their neighbours who are shooting at monkeys so that they can be charged and prosecuted, we highlight this problem during every talk we give. Already this year we have spoken at over seventy schools thereby diectly reaching tens of thousands of chidren who will hopefully carry our message back to their homes and the communities where they live. We have also spoken to numerous other groups. We are in contact with senior officials of the South African Police Service in an effort to get their assistance in having relevant sections of the Firearm Control Act enforced more effectively. We are producing an information leaflet which can be given to anyone purchasing a pellet gun. We are lobbying government for legislation that will provide for more stringent control on the sale and use of pellet guns. This, and everything else that comes to mind, we are doing!

Monkey Helpline update - July 21 to mid-August 2009

Every time I write a posting for this blog I am so enthused by the act of sharing with interested people all that which we deal with every day that I fully intend doing a daily posting so that every day’s activities are shared with you. But then the reality of what keeps us hectically busy each day kicks in and days, weeks and even a month pass before I get to sharing our trials and tribulations, joys and heartaches with you again. But right now, as I sit here typing, I am again enthused in exactly the same way so, come hell or high water, I will do another posting tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that, and … . We’ll see!

So what have Carol and I been up to since our last posting more than a month ago?

Well, what I can tell you is that our “high care” has never been so full, for a short while reaching forty-two monkeys in various states of physical healing. At present we have thirty-three monkeys in our care. During this time we transferred six monkeys to WATCH, the Vervet rehabilitation centre near Vryheid run by Bruce Cronk and Sandy Palm. Another twelve monkeys were transferred to The Hamptons Wild Care Center in Byrne Valley run by our friends James and Jan Hampton. These monkeys will form the core of the seed troop that James and Jan will build with the babies they receive from rescuers during this coming birthing season.

It really sounds terrible to say that we have dealt with the usual spate of injuries and deaths caused mostly by motor vehicles, dog attacks, pellet guns, electrocution, monkey fights, snares, razor wire and the rest, but that is the reality. This really is monkey hell and not much changes for the monkeys from one month to the next.

We rescued another juvenile monkey covered in paint, details contained in the following article written by us for the South Coast Sun newspaper, and published:

Horrible sights greet the Monkey Helpline rescuers as they go about the daily business of rescuing badly injured, sick or otherwise in desperate need of human help Vervet monkeys. And this past week has been no exception!

“Amongst the heart-breaking sights that have greeted us was that of a juvenile monkey in Athlone Park, Amanzimtoti covered in white acrylic PVA paint.,” said Monkey Helpline co-ordinator, Steve Smit. “Between November 2008 and January 2009 we rescued three painted monkeys from the same area. There is an old myth that if you catch a monkey and paint it white it will run back to its troop which in turn will run away from it and ultimately disappear over the horizon. Obviously some people in Athlone Park who are being troubled by monkeys believe this nonsense and have decided that this is the way to resolve their problem.”

“The first three monkeys were trapped and painted by the same person who we identified and have reported to the Amanzimtoti SAPS,” said Steve. We are awaiting the state prosecutor’s decision on prosecution.”

After three days of attempting to catch this latest victim of the “white paint myth”, Steve and fellow Monkey Helpline co-ordinator, Carol Booth, managed to rescue the little monkey after it was trapped in the house of the caring Athlone Park resident who had originally noticed the traumatized animal and reported it to the Monkey Helpline.

“Our efforts to trap the monkey were unsuccessful because every time it came near any food we put down the other monkeys would chase it away because of its unfamiliar appearance. It was badly traumatized due to constant harassment by fellow troop members and was getting really hungry,” Steve explained. “As with the previous three painted monkeys from the same area, this one was found right in the midst of its troop, which once again shows that the whole thing about painting monkeys to keep the troop away is a load of hogwash. In fact the only consequence is extreme cruelty which will result in prosecution if the culprit is caught. The Animal Protection Act makes provision for severe penalties for animal cruelty offenders if found guilty.”

Amazingly, during the second day’s efforts to catch the painted monkey, the rescuers were approached by a man who lived close by and asked what they were doing. “We told him we were trying to catch a monkey and he offered to catch one for us,” said Steve. “He said he had caught one just a day or two ago and painted it white before releasing it. I could hardly believe my ears and our luck. I pretended to doubt his ability to do this and asked him how he had managed to do so. He said I should accompany him into his property, which myself and fellow Monkey Helpline rescuer, Rhyan Rudman, did. This man, who identified himself as Jay, took us to an outside room and pointed to this as the place in which he had trapped the monkey. When I asked how had had actually restrained the monkey in order to paint it, he replied that he had thrown a loose carpet over the animal and held it like that whilst the white paint was poured over it. The carpet as well as the tin of paint had been left right there where the act of cruelty had taken place. There was also a lot of white paint on the ground as well as low down on the outside wall of the room. I had no doubt that this was exactly where the little monkey had been caught and painted.”

Steve said that he had already been to the Amanzimtoti police station and discussed this incident with the Senior Superintendent in charge. “We have been asked to provide sworn statements regarding this incident after which the Senior Superintendent will discuss the matter with the State Prosecutor with a view to prosecuting the offender. This is a blatant act of cruelty and we want an example made of this man. People need to know that cruelty to animals is unacceptable in a civilized society and that offenders will be punished to the full extent that the law permits.”

As for the little monkey, he will remain in the care of Steve and Carol, who run the Monkey Helpline “high care” at their home, until all the paint has been removed. Then he will be returned to his troop.

We rescued a sub-adult female Vervet on the Prince’s Grant Golf Estate who somehow got entangled in a fishing trace and had treble-hooks embedded in her mouth and right leg. The hooks were connected by nylon and trace-wire and even had a float attached. As the monkey moved around the hooks tore at her flesh causing sever injuries and infection. At one stage she actually carried the float in her hand as she moved around the golf estate. The day before we trapped her, the hooks must have been torn from her flesh after getting caught on vegetation as she ran through the bush, leaving ugly wounds.

Whilst in our care, and under veterinary treatment, she almost died from the infection caused by her injuries, but with the expert treatment by our dedicated vet, Dr Kerry Easson, and Carol’s tireless after-vet care, she made a full recovery and was released back to her troop on September 1, fittingly, International Primate Day!

Then there was the juvenile Vervet from Salt Rock with a nylon snare around her chest, trapped by a dedicated husband and wife team, Jane and Dirk, with a trap loaned from Primates Africa. We were asked by PA to remove the monkey from the trap, which we did. We then removed the nylon snare which had cut so deeply into the little monkey that she had to be taken to the vet to be cleaned and stitched. After ten days in the Monkey Helpline “high care” she was released back to her mother by Jane (pic on the right) and Dirk.

Sadly, our records for rescue call-outs for the past three months show just over one hundred and fifty dead monkeys – sixty-seven for June alone! Such carnage, yet we are still confronted daily by those intolerant, self-absorbed, small-minded idiots who insist that there is an overpopulation of monkeys and that they should be culled, “as was done in the good old days”! Well, lots of things that were done in “the good old days” are no longer permitted in the democratic, post-apartheid South Africa, but I guess some people never change.

That’s it for tonight. As promised, another posting will follow in the early, gravel-eyed hours of tomorrow!!

Friday, 17 July 2009

International Primate Day - September 1, 2009

Primate suffering, abuse, exploitation and persecution in South Africa will be highlighted on September 1 this year when Animal Rights Africa (ARA) joins the growing international effort to publicise the plight of primates the world over.

International Primate Day, which is observed on September 1 every year, was founded in 2005 by British-based Animal Defenders International for animal campaigners across the world to focus on the exploitation and persecution of primates.

Steve Smit, ARA trustee and joint coordinator of the ARA primate project, Monkey Helpline, said, “Primates in South Africa face a variety of threats to their safety and survival which are largely ignored by an ignorant or uncaring public. South African baboons and Vervet monkeys in particular are amongst the most misunderstood, maligned and persecuted animals in our country and suffer horrendously at the hands of intolerant and cruel humans. Not only are they the targeted victims for the “bushmeat” trade, for use by the entertainment industry, for the pet trade and as research subjects in laboratories, they are also relentlessly persecuted as so-called “pests and vermin” in both urban and agricultural areas where they are trapped, poisoned and shot in large numbers. Many fall victim to the cruelty of the traditional medicine (muti) trade and superstition”.

Smit said that ARA will ensure that in future International Primate Day will be observed annually throughout South Africa on September 1 and invited all specialist primate groups and other animal caring groups throughout the country to make a special effort for primates on this day. “Closer to the date we will announce various events that will take place on the day, but we can announce now that we will be handing over a memorandum to the national Minister of Safety and Security, or a representative from his ministry, calling for more stringent controls on the use of air-guns (pellet guns) which are a major source of injury, maiming and death in Vervet monkeys and baboons in both urban and agricultural areas. Amongst other things, we will also organize special events at schools and in various public places to educate South Africans about the five species of indigenous primates and why they deserve our respect and protection against exploitation and persecution”.

The pics on this page show, from top to bottom, a mother Vervet monkey and her baby of about six months sitting on a palisade fence in Umhlanga in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). We had to rescue a baby off an identical fence after it fell from a tree and impaled itself, through one arm and one leg, on two of the three points on each vertical. The mother was frantic as we gently released the terrified baby from its grizzly fate. The injuries were severe and the baby spent months recovering in our home-based "high care". When the little one had recovered we attempted to reintroduce it to the troop but without success. It has now been placed in rehabilitation for release in a few years time.

The centre pic shows Carol holding a sedated female Vervet we rescued in Amanzimtoti south of Durban, KZN today. Severely injured and crippled, with numerous cuts on her legs and hind-quarters, a severed left achilles tendon and her right eye socket devoid of an eyeball, we took her to our vet, Dr Kerry Easson, who came in to treat the monkey even though it was her day off. X-rays revealed 8 airgun pellets in her body and two in her head, one of which is embedded in the back of the socket that used to contain her right eyeball. We can only speculate how many other pellets had struck her body and passed right through, like the pellet that entered her left temple and exited above her left eye taking with it a chunk of bone. Under the skillful and caring treatment of Kerry and the tender care of Carol whilst in our "high care", she will hopefuly recover sufficiently to be able to spend her remaining years being spoilt by Shesh and Malcolm Roberts at the five star Tumbili Primate Sanctuary in Ashburton near Pietermaritzburg, KZN.

The bottom pic shows me with Lilo, an 8-week old baby baboon who came into Carol's care and in just 15 days changed her life forever. We'll tell you more about Lilo in a seperate posting.

Sunday, 05 July 2009

Terror of Tetanus

June was a particularly bad month for Vervet monkeys. As mentioned in an earlier posting, by the evening of June 16 we had dealt with 32 dead monkeys – two for every day, and it never got any better! June 28 and 29 resulted in seven dead monkeys In fact, this whole year has been a bad one for Vervets in general. Also, this month alone we have had more Vervets dying from Tetanus infection than during the previous twelve months – and strangely enough none of the Vervets affected had wounds that looked particularly bad. Which just goes to show that the Tetanus spore can infect a body by way of even a relatively minor injury.

Tetanus, or “locked-jaw” as it is commonly known, causes a terribly painful and emotionally traumatic death. Veterinary/medical description and diagnosis aside, what we as rescuers see is an animal whose body is being poisoned by the tetanus toxins and starts going into spasm from the head down, muscles no longer able to relax after being tensed. As the “stiffness” progresses downward the jaw locks so that the animal can no longer eat or drink and so also suffers severe hunger and thirst. The animal desperately tries to put food into its mouth which it cannot open. Then the arms stiffen and it is forced to walk semi-upright on its legs. Finally, it stiffens completely in a fallen-over or hunched sitting position and dies, mostly conscious until just before death, starving, desperately thirsty and in excruciating pain. A horrible, horrible way to die! Those few we find are the lucky ones – euthanasia spares them hours, or even days of suffering before they eventually die.

But there was also good news. Four young Vervets were transferred from our “high care” to the Vervet facility run by Jan and James Hampton in Byrne Valley. They will form the basis of a “seed troop” for some of this coming season’s orphaned babies who will be raised by Jan and James (see ).

We also released Pooh Bear, a beautiful and gentle big male Vervet who sufferd severe concussion after being hit by a motor vehicle in Kwa Mashu near Durban. His recovery took almost three months. He was released into our garden and has comfortable access to a large natuaral area, the Palmiet Nature Reserve. However, he chose not to move away and has actually joined our resident troop with ease. We see him almost daily.

Proving the point that the Monkey Helpline is not just about Vervets, we recently rescued a Thick-tailed Bushbaby who somehow had got himself stuck in an aviary full of birds and spent a few days there before we were called to rescue him. In good health, except for a sore nose (now healed) grazed against the aviary wire whilst attempting to get out, we will release him tonight, right into the riverine forest close to where we rescued him.
In closing this posting, feel free to contact the Monkey Helpline at any time if you want to get involved or if you want advice about indigenous and exotic primates or need assistance with any primate related problems.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Coffee and Coco

Recent rescues have brought two amazing little Vervets into our care. They are the fallout of tragedy as both were orphaned when some terrible thing separated them from their mothers. But such dramatically opposite consequences awaited them before coming into our care!

Coffee, as one of the youngsters has been named, was found and rescued by Rob after he saw the little monkey being dragged along the road in northern Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN) at the end of a piece of rope. He could see that Coffee was in a bad way and managed to negotiate to buy him. He learnt that Coffee’s mother had been killed and eaten by her captor. When we received Coffee into our care he was so thin, weak and dehydrated that we were not sure that he would survive. But once again the awesome skills of our vet, Dr Kerry Easson, and the unrivalled love and care of fellow Monkey Helpline coordinator, Carol, have paid dividends and Coffee is now a healthy, bouncy and extremely mischievous little monkey who will start his journey towards full rehabilitation that will eventually see him released into the wild with his new troop to live as all Vervets should!

For now Coffee has adopted Carol as his mom and spends almost 24 hours a day with her, just as he would with his real mom if she were still alive.

Coco, as the other youngster has been named, came to us after being seen in a tree next to a restaurant and literally jumped onto the shoulder of the man who was coaxing him down. Monkey Helpline received a call from this person asking for advice on how to look after a young monkey and also how to obtain a permit from the conservation authorities tokeep him as a pet. After establishing exactly where the monkey was being kept, Carol convinced the man that he would not be given a permit to keep the monkey as a pet as this was against the law in KZN, and also that keeping monkeys as pets was both cruel and impractical. She also explained how so-called “pet” monkeys become very frustrated at not being able to live as nature intended and usually end up biting humans, something almost unheard of regarding wild, free-ranging Vervets.

And so we collected Coco and brought him home. It was immediately obvious that whatever dramatic events had separated Coco from his mother and troop, he had been found and cared for by extremely loving humans. He is the most tame and gentle little monkey imaginable. He was spotlessly clean and smelt divinely of incense. But he had also been chased and bitten by free-ranging monkeys after being separated from his human surrogate caretakers, as was obvious from the small but painful injuries to his tail and one wrist. Also, when he was introduced to Coffee and the other monkeys in our "high care", he was terrified and hid himself down the front of Carol’s blouse, a sure sign that his recent experience of monkeys had been both frightening and painful. Fortunatey he has gotten over his fear of other monkeys.

How different were the first experiences with humans that Coffee and Coco must have had after losing their mothers!

Now, after almost two weeks in Carol’s care, Coffee and Coco are inseparable friends, constantly vying for their newly adopted human mother’s attention and creating havoc as their rough and tumble playing leaves knocked over and knocked off ornaments, books, CD’s and a zillion other household things scattered in their wake. No food on your plate is safe from their insatiable curiosity and so mealtimes for humans have become “quiet time” in their holding cage for these two urchins. Eating human food off human plates, as Coco is doing to Carol's son, Jordan, in the pic above, is a total "no-no"!!

Cute and endearing as they are, we cannot look at Coffee and Coco and not see the tragedy that has befallen them. Every day as we watch the Vervet youngsters in our wild troop, being nurtured by their mothers, playing in the trees and shrubs, exploring new things, and just being happy little wild monkeys, we realize what Coffee and Coco are missing out on. In the meantime, until they are ready to move on to the next phase of their rehabilitation, Carol provides the love and care they desperately need.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Refinery rescues and more

The three days that have passed since the last posting have not been without drama. Two rescues at the massive petroleum refinery, SAPREF, south of Durban, left us scratching our heads trying to figure out what it is that would lead Vervets to move from the relatively safe and pristine coastal dune forest adjacent to the refinery into the apparantly monkey unfriendly refinery with its noise, oily pollution, noxious fumes, razor wire, etc. We have already rescued an Egyptian goose, two Blue Duiker, and seven monkeys from the refinery. The goose, a duiker and a juvenile monkey had fallen into oil traps and been totally covered in the thick black gunge. All three were successfully cleaned and then released some time later. The pic on the left shows the juvenile Vervet before he was cleaned of every drop of oil.

This past week saw us carry out another two monkey rescues at SAPREF. The first, a young adult female, had been caught in perimeter razor wire and after what must have been a terrible struggle, ripped herslf free. Her hands, feet arms and body were so badly cut that she must have endured indescribable suffering before we caught her. Sadly her body could not combat the massive infection that had already set in and even with the dedicated and expert treatment of veterinarian Dr Kerry Easson she died during the first night in our “high care”. The second rescue had all the ingredients of a comedy-drama. A young, adult male Vervet, who had been severely injured by two other males the previous day, took refuge on top of a “tower”in the refinery. Whilst trying to assess the best way of capturing him we were unceremoniously evicted from the area because we had not been given “special clearance” to enter this particularly high risk area of the refinery. Forty-five minutes later, Carol and I, decked out in overalls, safety shoes, hard hat, special gloves, ear plugs and safety goggles were back on site to carry out the rescue, which we did successfully, but not before I was almost blinded and hosed off the tower by very helpful SAPREF employees using a water cannon to keep the monkey from running off the tower and escaping along the myriad pipes that seem to link every structure at the refinery. Thanks to Dr Easson (below left) this young male, now well stitched together and minus one testicle, will live to fight another day.

But there is light on the SAPREF horizon. We have met with their environmental officer who is arranging a meeting for the Monkey Helpline to assist and advise on how to make SAPREF less accessible to monkeys and also to find ways of keeping the monkeys within the adjacent natural areas as much as possible.

Sadly our “dead file” continues to grow. By end of day on June 16 we had added another 32 – yes, thirty-two – dead monkeys since June 1. That is two dead monkeys every day! And since June 17 we have added at least one dead monkey every day with yesterday, Sunday 21, having been a particularly grim day with three dead – one euthanased due to severe injuries sustained from being run over by a motor vehicle, one euthanased after being paralysed by a lead pellet from an airgun, and one euthanased after tetanus (lock-jaw) set in.
The next posting will include a piece about Coffee and Coco, two juvenile male Vervets who Carol is currently playing foster mother to.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009-06-18

Help us to help the Vervets and other primates

The purpose of this blog is to highlight the plight of Vervet monkeys and other primates in KwaZulu-Natal and throughout South Africa and the rest of the world.

To do this we tell you about the work we do, how we do it and what we strive to achieve. To understand the enormity of the battle we face you have only to look at the number of Vervet rescues we do every day, and when you consider that it is only Carol and I and a small team of dedicated rescue supporters who are actively involved, you can imagine how many more Vervets need our help every day yet we don’t even know about them.

Even with our small team we could achieve so much more - rescue many more animals, and educate countless more people if all the people who care about primates and know about the work we do would do something to actively help and support us.

So how can you help?

More than anything else the monkeys need friends, people who respect them and care for them and who are prepared to take a hand in helping them survive in this increasingly monkey-unfriendly world.

There are many ways you can help - becoming a rescuer or rescue assistant, helping educate people about monkeys by handing out information leaflets or doing or arranging talks about monkeys to schools and other groups, helping out at our information tables such as the one at Essenwood Market every Saturday, becoming a troop monitor, helping with building monkey enclosures, or working at our high care clinic. All this and much more -

Such as becoming a Monkey Helpline VIP (Vervet Interested Person) supporter and recruiting more VIP supporters, becoming a Sponsor, Donor or doing fundraising.

Make a donation.

Without sufficient funds we can’t operate. The fuel for our vehicle, the cell phone communication, veterinary costs, food for the monkeys in our high care and the many other costs associated with the successful running of this project are entirely dependent on public donations, supporter membership fees and sponsorships!

For more about “how you can help”, contact the Monkey Helpline:

Steve on 082 659 4711 or Carol on 082 411 5444 or email .

Banking Details for deposits into the Monkey Helpline account:

- Account name: Monkey Helpline
- Bank : Standard Bank
- Branch : Melville
- Account number: 081385439
- Branch code : 006105
- Type of account: Cheque
- Swift code: SBZAZAJJ
- Reference: Your organization, cell/mobile phone number or email

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

January to June 2009

Its been a while since this blog was updated, but new information will be posted every day if possible and at the very least every week from here on.

It has been a hectic year so far for the Monkey Helpline with rescue callouts every day – and we still average three rescues every two days, with six rescues on each of the past two Saturdays.

Currently we have 27 monkeys in our “high care!

This year to date we have also done in excess of forty educational talks about Vervet monkeys to schools and other community groups, manned our outreach table at the Essenwood Craft Market every Saturday and promoted the work of Monkey Helpline and Animal Rights Africa in many other public forums. We continue to distribute thousands of information leaflets.

Looking at the statistics of Vervet monkeys dealt with by the Monkey Helpline so far this year, it is shocking to know how many of these monkeys actually died.

In the period 1 January 2009 to 17 May 2009, 137 days, we dealt with 143 dead monkeys – just more than one dead monkey every day! These monkeys were euthanased, died en route to the vet, died during or after veterinary treatment, or in some cases were already dead on our arrival.

67 deaths were the result of motor vehicle accidents.

29 deaths were the result of pellet gun injuries

22 deaths were the result of injuries caused by dogs

12 deaths were the result of injuries caused by other monkeys

13 deaths were due to poisoning, razor-wire, electrocution, raptors, Tetanus or snares. One was burnt with hot oil.

These figures do not reflect those monkeys dealt with by any other primate handling groups in KZN.

X-rays show that over eighty percent of the monkeys rescued or retrieved by the Monkey Helpline have air gun pellets lodged in their bodies, rarely only one pellet, mostly between two and eight pellets, some with ten to fifteen pellets.

If one considers that the Monkey Helpline is only dealing with the tip of the ice-berg when it comes to rescuing or retrieving sick, injured, orphaned or otherwise in-need-of-help Vervets in KZN, the rate at which the Vervet population in KZN, particularly in and around towns and cities, is being decimated should set alarm bells ringing. It certainly makes a mockery of those claims that there is a population explosion of Vervets and that they are breeding out of control. Now more than ever they need our protection and care, especially when you consider that our “dead file” has 29 new entries just for the first 15 days of June!

(PS. The figure of 143 dead monkeys in the first 137 days of 2009 was subsequently adjusted to 154 after some misfiled admission records were re-filed)