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)