Saturday, 31 July 2010

About a month ago, good friend Tracey Hartley, well known in the local animal care community for her efforts in helping feral cats, and equally well known for assisting in the finding of good homes for dogs and cats needing a “forever home”, responded to my call for assistance with a baby, eight month old Vervet monkey run over in Marine Drive, Umhlanga.

Tracey rushed to the scene of the accident, picked up the comatose baby whilst fending off the aggressively protective efforts of the mother Vervet monkey, and rushed to our vet where we met her.

Suffering severe concussion, a cracked scull and a severely damaged left eye, young Bazil, as the monk was named, came home to the awesome care of Carol and Jenny. Sadly Bazil lost the sight in his left eye (clearly visible in the pic of Bazil below) but made such good progress that last week, four weeks after Tracey rescued him, we took him back to Umhlanga in the hope of finding his troop and returning him to his mother.

Bazil’s alertness and interest in his surroundings when we arrived in Umhlanga convinced us that he knew we were near his home and his family. He had known the fresh smell of the sea from the day he was born.

We had no luck finding his troop and we were forced to take a very unhappy Bazil home with us. But before we left we chatted to the regular car guard at the spot where Bazil had been run over and he told us that Bazil’s troop visited the adjacent park every day. We left our card and he promised to call us the moment he next saw the troop.

Two days later we got the call and rushed down to Umhlanga with Bazil. The car guard, whose Rwandan name I could not for the life of me grasp, no matter how many times I asked him to repeat it, ran ahead of me to the other side of the park and pointed to the monkey footprints in the sand. Lots of footprints, but not a monkey in sight! In response to my question as to which way the monkeys were moving he pointed across the road and up the hill. Thanking him we started systematically driving up and down the roads in the area where we hoped to find Bazil’s troop. Luck was on our side and ten minutes later we encountered the lazily foraging troop not far from where we had started our search.

We followed our usual, very successful, process when attempting to return a young monkey to his/her troop and once convinced that this was definitely Bazil’s troop, and that his mother really wanted him back, we released him from the transport cage. Despite the fact that we have done countless returns like this, every one carries with it the same initial trepidation that turns to elation when the baby is back with its possesive mother

Just then I received another rescue call, unbelievably from a mere 500 meters away. I left Carol and Jenny monitoring Bazil’s return to his troop and rushed to the rescue. There I found a very sick-looking mature female Vervet with her seven-month-old youngster playing around her. She was obviously very ill and it took very little effort to catch her as she tried vainly to escape my net by running towards the edge of the roof as I chased after her.

Quickly back to Carol and Jenny who were happily videoing and photographing Bazil being groomed by some of his 'Class of 2009' troop-mates and an older sister. It took no time to convince them of the urgency with which we had to get the sick Vervet to our vet and they hastily bid Bazil goodbye and good luck and off we rushed. Tracey met us en route to the vet and confirmed that this monkey was from the small troop that visited her flat every day. Tracey knew this monkey well. The old girl had been coming to her for a snack every day for years, including that very morning.

At the vet we were horrified to see that the monkey was bleeding heavily from her side and was close to losing consciousness. “Horrified”, because when I had caught her there was not a drop of blood visible on her body and my initial, layman’s “diagnosis” was that she had been struck by a car or had possibly eaten some human medication or poison. I could almost say “no such luck”, because a quick check found two telltale small holes in her side and an x-ray confirmed that there were two pellets in her chest. Even though she was already close to death Kerry, our vet, decided to euthanise her - an act of kindness after such a vicious assault!

I called Tracey and gave her the sad news. She was devastated! Her letter that she subsequently sent to the local Northglen News, and which was published this week, follows below and says all that needs to be said:

“My husband and I were absolutely devastated to hear that our dear One Eye Mother monkey was shot yesterday and had to be euthanased. She was such a harmless old girl, she would visit our flat almost every day and would calmly sit and attend to all her children. Not only did she take excellent care of her own babies, but was also a foster Mom to two others, whose Mom's had met their fates at the cruel hands of humans in the area! Steve from Monkey Helpline & I had been planning to catch her and sterilise her, as we felt that she was getting on in life and already had enough to deal with, without having to care for another new baby. Unfortunately she was senselessly murdered before we could put that plan into action. We will miss you One Eye, but I am sure that your little band of children who relied on you for love and protection, will miss you more!

Deeply saddened!
Tracey & Dalton Hartley

Nothing we do or achieve will bring back this old monkey, nor will it change the fact that she died frightened and in pain, distraught at being separated from her baby who, after seeing his dying mother caught and boxed, was last seen running terrified after the rest of the troop, some of whom were still visible in the distance. Besides showing us the pellets in her body, the x-ray also revealed that she was, to our relief, not pregnant!

If ever we find the morally retarded scumbag who so callously shot two pellets into that old Vervet, we will make every effort to have him arrested, charged and punished to the full extent that the law permits. And hopefully, like the idiot who was arrested last week after shooting a “pet” baby Vervet in front of the children in whose home the little monkey was being kept, he will spend at least one night in jail.

If any good can come from the cruel death of this old Vervet, then it must be that we are driven to even greater effort to expose the horror of pellet gun related cruelty that is daily perpetrated against monkeys and other animals, and that our efforts result in more arrests and successful prosecutions of offenders, more stringent controls on the acquisition, ownership and use of pellet guns, and greater understanding on the part of the public about the dangers of pellet guns!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010


This posting is devoted to a few of the many positive outcomes of our efforts to help monkeys, and believe me, there are many. It is our optimism with every rescue we are called out to that there will be a happy ending, and for us that translates very simply to being able to release the rescued monkey back to where it was living with its troop before we captured it.

Unfortunately, the reality of monkey rescues is all too often sketched in blood on the stark canvas of human intolerance, cruelty, indifference and speciesism. And the upshot of this is that when we write our blog we are frequently angry, heartbroken, bewildered and frustrated. So, more often than not we find ourselves recounting the tragedies of our daily callouts, not because we thrive on doom and tragedy, but because we believe that unless the public knows exactly what is happening to monkeys in this increasingly monkey-unfriendly world, we won’t get the support we need to make a positive difference for monkeys and other animals who all share this fragile planet. Scattered throughout the dark pain and suffering there are bursts of light that recharge our emotional batteries and keep us going in the belief that every rescue has some good in it, even if that “good” is the humane taking of a tortured and doomed life. But, there are happy endings, inspirational endings, none more so than those recounted here.

During the third quarter of 2009 we rescued two adult male Vervets who had each suffered severe, life-threatening injury to their left leg (primates have arms and legs).

Accacia, the male rescued in Westville and named after the road where he was trapped, had an ugly, painful wound into his left ankle and was unable to use that leg at all.

Michael, rescued in Mkuhla Road, Glen Anil, had survived electrocution on municipal electricity supply lines but the severity of the damage to his lower left leg meant that it would only be a matter of time before he lost the damaged portion of the leg, which would include his left foot.

Both monkeys had contracted severe infection as a result of their injuries.

Our daily monkey dealings have shown us that there are many monkeys who have lost all or part of a limb and survived without the benefit of human intervention and the miracle of modern veterinary care. But we also know that many get infection in similar injuries and suffer terribly before they die. It is up to us to judge each case on its individual merits and, given the extensive rescue, treatment and care experience we have gained over the past fifteen years, to take the action we deem appropriate. So, both Accacia and Michael were trapped and taken to our vet for assessment and necessary treatment.

The vet decided that Accacia’s left leg should be amputated two-thirds up the thigh due to the physical damage and severe infection in both muscle and bone.

Michael’s electrocution-damaged lower leg shriveled and eventually dropped off. Fifteen-year old Monkey helpline volunteer, Shannon Wood, nearly fainted when she discovered Michael’s foot on the bottom of his cage when she was helping with cage-cleaning in our “monkey high- care”.

So now we had to adult male Vervets in our care, each having lost the use of their left leg. Initially we had been certain that both monkeys, each with only three fully functional limbs, would have a good quality of life in a local Vervet sanctuary while they were being assessed for possible release, but that option failed to materialize as the sanctuary had reached capacity and could not accommodate any more adult male Vervets. Direct release became the only option. After seven months with us, a number of those spent in our large outside exercise cages (top pic shows a fit looking Accacia in the exercise cage), both Accacia and Michael were the picture of health. They were fit and strong and able to use their one leg as if they still had two. But we only decided that release was worth the risks after lengthy consideration of all the possible outcomes and much pestering of our primate-knowledgeable friends for their thoughts and advice.

Came the day of the release and much excitement accompanied our catching and boxing of the two boys in preparation of transporting them to their respective places of original rescue capture.

We took Accacia to the very garden where we originally caught him, and the moment the box was opened he sped to freedom, no doubt convinced that the months of captivity spent plotting and planning his escape had suddenly and unexpectedly borne fruit (second from top pic shows Accacia racing back to freedom).

Michael’s release was equally heart-warming as he too sped from the box to freedom (bottom pic), a freedom which to him seemed momentarily to have been thwarted by a palisade fence he must have slipped through easily many times before. But months of five-star meals had added a few centimeters to his girth and he was brought to an abrupt, if very brief halt, before some strenuous wriggling got him through and he could lope casually into the adjacent, unfenced garden and climb easily to the top of a big tree from where he could survey a territory last seen seven months before, but still remembered in every minute detail.

We had told a number of monkey-friendly people living within the territories of Accacia and Michael about the release of the two and asked to be notified of any sightings. To our delight we received news of sightings within days and continue to receive frequent, positive feedback about the activities of both Michael and Accacia.

Three weeks after the release, we had the heart-stopping experience of having Accacia cross busy Blair Athol Road right in front of us in 5 ‘o clock traffic, only about one monkey minute from our house where he had spent the previous seven months. Could it be that he was missing the food and security of life with Carol in the Monkey helpline “high-care” and was trying to find his way back to us? That question was answered two days later when, going down to feed the monkeys in the outside enclosures, we found a contented looking Accacia on top of what had been his exercise cage (a jail by any other name…) for three months.

What would happen if he was confronted by adult males from our resident troop of Vervets? We got the answer a few days later when we watched, enthralled and in trepidation, as Accacia was challenged by one of the young adult males scouting a safe route for his fellow troop members. Being a young adult himself, Accacia survived the encounter and those that followed on subsequent days, having some ugly but not life threatening injuries inflicted on him by the bigger, stronger males.

A week after his first encounter with the troop he had challenged daily for three months from the safety of his cage, Accacia was accepted into the troop with which he now visits our garden daily ( pic third from top shows a comfortably free-again, banana-eating Accacia in our garden).

As for Michael, he continues to enjoy the company of the troop he was a part of when we rescued him. One lady called to say she sees him often and recently said he was “running like the wind in the tree tops”. A few weeks ago we received a rescue callout that took us to Huckleberry Road in Glen Anil. On our arrival I realized that we were just over the hill from where we had released Michael. I asked the caller if she had seen a male monkey with his left foot missing. She laughed and told us to go and look in the trees behind her house. There, sitting casually on a branch surrounded by a collection of other Vervets, was Michael. He was so well and looked as if he had never spent a day away from his troop. And we knew he had been unconditionally accepted back into his troop when the alpha male walked along the branch Michael was sitting on, brushed past him and continued on his way to another tree without giving Michael a second glance. I’m not ashamed to say I had a tear of joy trickle down my cheek and when I looked across at Carol she too was teary-eyed with happiness and relief at seeing Michael so comfortably back where he belongs.

To end on a humorous note, last week we received a call from an elderly lady living in Cypress Road, Glen Anil. She said she was terribly concerned about a badly injured monkey who was in her garden. I asked the usual questions and learnt that the entire troop was there in her garden, including a big male whose foot was missing. Would we please come and catch this poor “suffering” monkey, and would we have to euthanise him? I asked if it was his left foot missing? Yes! Was the “injured” leg bleeding? No! Other than the missing foot, did the monkey look healthy? Yes, very! This was definitely Michael, and the lady was delighted to have met him.

I started this blog post intending to share at least four happy releases with you, but the others will have to wait for another posting, otherwise I'll be up till 3am again.

What the release of Michael and Accacia has taught us is that, given the chance, Vervets can survive, unconfined, with disabilities resulting from natural and man-made causes, even if those disabilities are as severe as the full or partial loss of a limb. We owe it to them to give them every chance to do so!

Tuesday, 06 July 2010

More Monkey Misery

Its been almost two months since my last blog posting and the time has really been filled with the usual number of monkey rescues, which included a capuchin and a White-eared Marmoset, as well as rescues of all kinds of other animals, including dogs, cats, chickens and numerous other birds and even a few snakes. But what I want to share with you in this posting are the experiences we had on three particular rescue call-outs very recently.

Wherever possible we make use of the printed media to publicise the incidents we deal with, firstly to educate the public about the consequences of human intolerance and cruelty towards animals, and secondly to try and get the message through to those morally retarded sub-humans who perpetrate acts of violence against animals, that they are under scrutiny and will be prosecuted at the first opportunity that arises

Information supplied to the Queensburgh News:

Over a year ago we, the Animal Rights Africa Monkey Helpline project, were called out to the Northdene home of a family who is visited daily by a troop of Vervet monkeys. They love the monkeys and routinely put out some food for them to forage as they pass through. The monkeys stop only for as long as it takes them to eat what is there, then they move on peacefully. They never attack the humans or their pets, don’t purposely trash the garden and certainly don’t do anything that would warrant any act of violence being directed at them by humans.

The reason we were called to this particular home was out of concern for a female monkey who had a wire snare tightly caught around her chest. Our efforts to trap her were unsuccessful because she was so nervous of humans that she would not go anywhere near the trap we set for her. Efforts to dart her proved just as frustrating because she would flee the moment she saw anything suspicious. Inhibited by the constriction of the snare that was now cutting into her flesh, she lost weight to the point where the snare was actually loose enough for her to work it down from her chest to her lower body, and from there it was just a question of time before she managed free herself from the snare completely. She even had a new baby this past baby season.

Then today, June 13, we received a phone call from a house just around the corner from where we had for so long tried to catch the snared monkey. Arriving there we found a mature adult female Vervet monkey lying in the garden, the rest of her troop in close attendance. We caught her easily as her futile efforts to escape using only her arms to drag herself along were pathetically hopeless. Our worst fears were confirmed when the vet’s x-rays showed that she had at least four lead pellets in her body and that the one had entered her right side and lodged in the spinal cord, paralyzing her lower body and leaving her in excruciating pain and fearfully confused at not being able to walk or climb or protect her six or seven month old baby. The baby had sat on a branch above her bravely threatening us as we caught her, but the little fellow's threats had no effect on the humans he must have believed were going to take his mom off for a meal. What else could he expect of humans given the experiences he'd had of them so far during his short life.

And then, to add to the tragedy, we noticed the scar encircling her chest and back and we knew too that this was the female who had cheated death once before when she managed to get rid of the snare that threatened to choke her to death. This time she would not be so lucky and it was with heavy hearts that we witnessed her life slip gently away as the vet did the kindest thing she could and euthanised her. But spare a thought for the little orphan who will now have to make his way through every day, facing all the obstacles of monkey life in an urban area and hope to have an older brother, sister or aunt to snuggle close to at night!

We drove home vowing to continue our fight to protect these beautiful and fascinating little animals from the actions of those cruel and ignorant humans who so readily resort to violence against innocents who are unable to defend themselves. Over eighty percent of all monkeys rescued by the Monkey Helpline have got lead pellets lodged in their bodies!

Discharging a pellet gun in an urban area, ands even pointing a pellet gun at person or property, is an offence in terms of the Firearms Control Act. Report incidents of pellet gun crime to Monkey Helpline or your nearest SAPS or Metro Police station, and help us protect the monkeys and other animals, and even humans, against these bloodthirsty criminals.

Information supplied to the Northglen News:

This past week has again turned out to be a bad one for monkeys generally, and particularly for the monkeys living in the Durban North area.

Last week the Monkey Helpline was alerted to a monkey in Umgeni Heights with what appeared to be black oil covering her entire body. After a number of phone calls from concerned residents, Carol Booth and Steve Smit managed to trap the monkey and discovered that she was in fact covered in a dark varnish or bitumen type substance.

“This was obviously a deliberate act of cruelty by some uncaring person who must have trapped the monkey and then poured the varnish over her whilst she was confined in the trap”, said Carol. “The ignorance and antagonism of some anti-monkey people is unbelievable. They still believe in the old myth that by catching and painting a monkey, usually white, then releasing it, you will instill such fear in the remainder of the troop that they will run away and never be seen in the area again. It stems from the nineteenth century days of the boers who painted baboons and monkeys with white wash or wet them and threw bread flour all over them to keep them out of their crops. It did not work then and doesn’t work now. Every painted monkey we have rescued was found in their troop in the same area they were painted. It is just very cruel and very unnecessary”.

“What makes this particular case even worse is that this young female is pregnant with her first baby and unless we are able to clean her without removing too much hair she will have to stay with us in captivity and give birth to her baby here. This will cause her terrible stress and depending how long she is with us will determine how successfully she and her baby can be integrated back into their troop”.

In another case of blatant cruelty and in contravention of both the Firearm Control Act and the Animal Protection Act, a young monkey was injured after a rock was thrown at it from a residential property in Sunningdale by a construction worker. According to an eye witness the monkey fell to ground crying pitifully, with a number of other monkeys frantically trying to help it. After a while a person emerged from the property and took the still crying monkey inside. A short while later the sound of a pellet gun being discharged was heard and the monkey was silenced.

Monkey Helpline was called and managed to take possession of the monkey’s body. Steve said that when he first asked for the monkey’s body, the person who admitted to having killed the monkey said he had buried it. However when the body was brought out it was very obvious that it had not been buried. “It was wrapped in brown paper and was obviously destined for the pot or for muti use”, said Steve. “We could see that the monkey had been shot into the chest below the left arm and when I asked who had shot it the same person admitted to having done so. He claimed that ‘hundreds’ of monkeys had rampaged through the property and were attacking his dogs. Both dogs were right there and had not a mark on them”, said Steve.

Steve said that the incident had been reported to both the SPCA and the SAPS and that Monkey Helpline and the other witnesses to the incident would submit sworn statements in an effort to get the person who shot the monkey prosecuted. “We have x-rays of the body showing the pellet and are awaiting the vet’s report to substantiate our statements”.

Carol said that much antagonism and violence towards monkeys was based on ignorance or arrogance. “By educating people, and prosecuting where necessary, we hope to change this. People must realize that the troops of monkeys they see have lived here for hundreds of years and that our development has impacted adversely on them. They have a right to be here and we must learn how to live in harmony with them. This only requires a bit of tolerance and understanding on our part. Whilst many people fear being attacked by monkeys or catching rabies from them, these fears are unfounded. Monkeys only bite in extreme cases of provocation and only in self defense. Dogs only get bitten after they have attacked and caught a monkey. And as for rabies, there has never been a recorded case of a rabid monkey in South Africa. Monkeys can get rabies just like any other mammal, including humans, but they are not rabies carriers”.

Carol and Steve ask people to contact the Monkey Helpline if they are having problems with monkeys or know of anyone shooting them. “We do our best to provide practical, humane solutions and it is definitely not necessary to resort to cruelty when dealing with monkeys”, concluded Carol.