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.