Thursday, 11 March 2010


Baby Vervet Number Six - Mignon

Found lying on the ground in a complex by the gate security guard, little Mignon, as she was named, was a tiny premature baby who weighed only 200 grams. Most Vervet babies have a birth weight of between 300 and 400 grams, which tells you just how small she was. She was only a few hours old and the likely reason she was away from her mother is that she was too weak to hold on. Why she was born so prematurely we don’t know, but in all likelihood her mother was traumatized by an injury caused by a dog, car or pellet gun and was unable to keep her baby with her – presuming her mother was still alive, of course!

By the time Mignon was picked up and brought to us she had been bitten by ants and had hundreds of fly eggs on her. Very close to death she was cleaned and treated by Carol and Monkey Helpline surrogate mom, Jenny Morgans, then taken into 24 hour care by Carol. Too weak to suckle she had milk formula dripped into her mouth every fifteen minutes. Carol never put her down and even slept sitting up with little Mignon on her chest, feeling Carol’s warmth and protection and, most importantly, feeling the comfort of Carol’s heartbeat.

Once Mignon started digesting the milk formula, she immediately had an allergic reaction to it and angry red blotches appeared all over her small body. Exit the milk formula and to the rescue Angela, Jenny’s daughter who was still breast-feeding her own baby, little Andrew, and had milk to spare. Primate breast milk was just what Mignon needed and almost miraculously the red botches started clearing up and were gone within a day. With Angela expressing enough milk to provide for Mignon’s needs each day it appeared that the tiny Vervet had a more than even chance at survival. But this was not to be and on day four she started to slip visibly downhill. A desperate visit to our vet, Dr Kerry Easson, confirmed that she was showing signs of underdeveloped lung function, which results in a fluid/mucous build-up in the lungs A renewed, but very brief, interest in her bottle later in the evening had Carol ever hopeful that she would fight through this setback, but sadly this was not to be. Carol woke me at 2 in the morning to say that Mignon was in a coma. She looked so peacefully asleep as Carol held her close to her heart. But it was a sleep she would not wake up from.

We buried her, facing the rising sun, under a beautiful Quinine tree in the front garden.