Friday, 27 August 2010

Ever so "Flippin' Cute"

Monkey Helpline blog readers will recall the little Vervet monkey that Carol was holding close in the blog posting of 16 August, “Monkeys still in harm’s way”. Since named “Flippin’ Cute”, because he is such an amazingly affable and bright little chap who holds no grudges against humans in spite of the despicable and cowardly way he has was attacked by some pellet gun-wielding low-life, he has made an amazing recovery.

In addition to being shot three times into his small body, of which at least one pellet went into his chest, he also sustained a badly fractured skull, probably after falling out of a tree or off a roof when he was shot (top pic shows just how swollen Flippin' Cute's eyes were after the trauma to his head).

Now both eyes are completely open and he has perfect vision (centre pic). There does not, at this stage appear to be any brain damage in spite of the severe concussion he suffered. He has an amazing appetite and already I am trying to convince Carol that he is a tad plump! And he is ever so cute!!

Evenings, whilst Carol is doing admin work he sits next to her on the table with a bowl of mixed food and chomps away to his heart’s content. And he watches TV with a real interest (bottom pic), responding to various things he sees, especially the animals on Animal Planet. He was terrified by a big dog even before it barked, watched curiously as a cat was treated by a vet, and then jumped into Carol’s arms and hid his face in her jersey when a turkey gobbled.

He is uncharacteristically afraid of other small monkeys and so he is being introduced slowly to two other monks of about the same age. It is important that he keeps in touch with his monkey-hood because we will make every effort to reunite him with his troop and his mother. If we don’t succeed in doing this he will be bonded into a troop of monkeys being prepared for rehabilitation and release. Sadly, at the time we rescued him he was alone with no other monkeys around, which means that his mother had abandoned him after he was injured, or else she too had been shot and was unable to stay with him. Quite possibly she is dead! Healthy mother Vervets don't easily give up on their babies!!

Let’s hope we get to see Flippin’Cute running back into his mother’s arms – and Carol’s tears will be a mixture of sadness and joy!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

RIP, Grumpy Face!

Sometimes I wake up and I just know it’s going to be one of “those weeks”.

How do I know this? I don’t know, but I do. Experience has taught me that some things, though not many, it is better I do not know!

Anyway, it was Monday morning, August 16th, and “one of those weeks” started! Not the busiest week we’ve ever had – just uncoordinated and bitty! Rushing at the last moment to do a school talk that hadn’t been confirmed until two minutes previously. This after spending the time before and after dropping kids at school discouraging the resident Juvenile Crowned Eagle from honing her hunting skills on any of the twenty-one cats who have found a home with us. Perched high in the old Flamboyant tree (top pic), she is a magnificent animal and we are really privileged to have her spend so much time in our garden, even if the monkeys recovering in the outside cages don’t appreciate her presence in the same way we do. In fact, harsh as it might seem, her visits are good for our juvenile monkeys who were rescued as orphans, because they have gained very valuable life skills from her presence, as our older monkeys, who know what a threat Crowned Eagles are to Vervet monkeys, saturate the upper end of the valley with alarm calls for as long as the eagle is in sight. All the younger monkeys hide in the back of their cage in silence and won’t even peep out until the older monkeys sound the “all clear”.

Usually our day starts with cleaning cages and feeding monkeys. We get as much done as possible before taking kids to school, and hope like crazy that we don’t get an urgent rescue call before we have the time to get home, finish what cleaning and feeding still needs doing and then jump into the shower or bath.

An uneventful Tuesday was followed by a hectic Wednesday. Dropping kids at school early enough to be able to negotiate Pinetown’s early morning traffic so that we could get to a school talk by 7.50, we got a call from monkey-lover, Brenda, about a monkey attacked by a dog in the garden of a Manor Gardens home at the upper end of her road. So, whilst rushing to rescue the monkey, we called and rescheduled the school talk for next week. Arriving at the scene of the incident we saw that the injured monkey was a magnificent male from the troop that Brenda feeds at her home every day, and from which we had previously, on separate occasions, trapped and treated two members in need of urgent veterinary attention. During the time spent trapping the monkeys at Brenda’s house, Carol had got to know this particular monkey very well, even naming him “Grumpy Face”. By the time we arrived at the house where Grumpy Face had been attacked, he had already climbed a tree and was just out of our reach. Seriously injured after being bitten into the chest by the dog, a large male Rhodesian Ridgeback, he was still mobile enough to avoid capture as I climbed the tree in an attempt to get close enough to net him. So, darting with a sedative was the only way to go!

Enter Senior Inspector Dougie Du Plessis of the Durban SPCA, who arrived as soon as he could after we called him, considering he had to traverse Durban during morning rush-hour traffic. A well-placed dart galvanized Grumpy Face into action and he clambered painfully into the highest, thinnest branches of the tree, with all the rescuers and volunteers who had gathered, surrounding the tree to block his escape should he decide to try and get out of the tree. But he had no such intentions and just clung to the branches as if his life depended on it, which it did, trying to find a comfortable position to ease the pain that must have been swamping his body with every breath and movement.

After what seemed an eternity we all agreed that he looked drowsy enough for me to climb the tree and attempt a net capture. Not that easy because of the way a Cedar tree grows its branches, but eventually, after abandoning the net, with Carol and Dougie and the volunteer team below ready to catch the monkey if he fell, I managed to snare his tail using a catch-pole, and with him still having plenty of fight left in him in spite of his injuries and the sedatives, I guided him down the tree as gently as I could, making sure of keeping clear of his lethal canines!

Brenda just broke into tears at the sight of one of her beloved monkeys so injured and close to death. We got Grumpy Face to the vet as fast as we could, but sadly he died literally as we arrived there. What a tragedy to see such a magnificent animal die so senselessly (bottom pic shows a heart-broken Carol holding Grumpy Face just after he died). With the dog’s owner having initially claimed that the monkey attacked his dog for no reason, though Carol very quickly put him right on that by explaining that monkeys only ever bite dogs in self defense and never just attack a dog because they are vindictive or having a bad day, we were left wondering whether there was another dog- bitten monkey to whose defense Grumpy Face had rushed, bravely sacrificing his own life in the process.

With most of his troop in close attendance during the entire rescue operation, we certainly had not seen any other injured monkey, and a post-rescue search also yielded nothing. What we did see and which touched the hearts of all who had gathered, was the pregnant female monkey who stayed close throughout the whole incident, calling gently to Grumpy Face in an attempt to entice him to follow the troop, which, for the safety of all its members usually only stays in the same place for as long as is necessary and must keep moving throughout its territory. It is a sobering experience to watch a troop of monkeys milling around anxiously as they delay their departure in the hope that their injured troop-mate will regain the strength needed to follow them. But eventually they do leave and in this case the loyal female was forced to leave too, as the safety of her unborn baby and that of her one year–old remained her primary responsibility!

Look out for the upcoming separate blog postings in which I’ll share with you the collection of incidents that coloured the remaining days of the week!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Monkeys still in harms way

The reaction from blog readers to the previous blog about the pregnant female from Hillcrest who had to be euthanised because of the damage caused to her body and her unborn baby by the five lead pellets that had been shot into her was quite phenomenal. Readers were outraged by the brutality of the unwarranted attack on a pregnant monkey and all wanted to know if it would be possible to identify and prosecute the guilty person/persons.

Yes, it is possible to identify and prosecute the scum who would be so callously cruel to an innocent animal. But only if we get a sworn statement from an eye witness. If it seems that simple, it isn’t!

(Top pic - Carol gets up close and personal with a ten-month old baby Vervet, rescued this week, who already has three, yes three, pellets in his small body. And he also has a multi-fractured skull, hence the swollen shut eyes, after falling from a high tree as he tried to get away from whatever was causing the pain that was wracking his little frame.)

Every time we rescue a monkey who has been shot with a pellet gun we immediately flood the surrounding area with our “pellet gun leaflet”, which highlights the suffering associated with injuries caused by lead pellets, sets out the nature of the criminal offence of discharging a pellet gun in a residential area as contained in the relevant section and paragraphs of the Firearm Control Act, and calls on residents of the area to report any pellet gun abuse by neighbours to us.

Inevitably we get one of two responses, sometimes both:

- Defensive and indignant calls from individuals who think that they are the only one who found our leaflet in their post box and then claim that they are being set up by a neighbour who doesn’t like them. Often this call is from the very person who has already been pointed out to us by neighbours as the shooter!
- Animal-, even monkey- loving people who claim that one of their neighbours shoots at monkeys and other animals with a pellet gun.

Whichever response we get, it is usually pretty simple to identify who the shooter is. What isn’t that simple is convincing most witnesses to go to their local police station and make a sworn statement about what they have seen. But why this reticence to take the crucial step that will go a long way towards getting the suspect arrested and prosecuted?

(Second pic - A beautiful female Vervet, heavily pregnant, shot twice with a pellet gun this week. One pellet entered her abdomen and also killed her unborn baby. She suffered terribly and was found as she died, bent over with her face in her hands and the grimace etched on her face showing the excrutiating pain she endured for at least a week after being shot).

Mostly the answer from witnesses is that they don’t want to develop bad relations with the shooter (neighbour). Or, the shooter is “well connected” with the local police and will not get charged. Or, that the shooter is a “dangerous” person who might “do something” to the witness or even kill the witness’s own pets. And more…

Fact is that without the statement from the witness our hands, and those of the law enforcers, are tied. When we impress upon the witness how important their statement is, they usually say that they will definitely make a statement the next time they see the shooter using the pellet gun. That’s great, but then, as I point out, they must accept that they are also saying that another, and another, and another monkey will be shot before they are prepared to report the shooter and follow this up with a sworn statement to the police - just so that they don’t piss off their neighbour and spoil their “good” neighbour relationship. Get serious! Who in their right mind wants to have a good relationship with a moronic neighbour who you know is cruelly shooting monkeys and/or other animals? Would you want to maintain a "good" relationship with a neighbour who you discover is physically or sexually abusing children? I think not!

(Third pic - Grosvenor Girls' High School learners, Louise Joubert (left) and Rachel Van Rensburg, hold the pregnant female Vervet, paralysed in her lower body, who they watched over and fed in the school grounds last week until Monkey Helpline arrived to rescue her).

But we don't tell witnesses to have the guts to do the right thing. We realize that just phoning us is already a big step and we really appreciate this. We are very polite and we ask them nicely to think about it very carefully and then to let us know if they change their minds because they have it in their power to save more monkeys from horrible suffering and death.

(Bottom pic - The pregnant Vervet rescued from Gosvenor Girls' High School, paralysed by a lead pellet that smashed her spine, about to be taken to the vet to be euthanised).
And in the meantime, whilst they are making up their minds, and maintaining good relationships with the monkey murdering neighbour, we carry on the grim task of picking up the dead and dying monkeys!

"The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people are evil, but because of the people who do nothing about it". Albert Einstein

Wednesday, 04 August 2010

Win some! Lose some! Too many lost!

On a daily basis I am appalled by the callous indifference shown to Vervet monkeys by a small, morally dysfunctional group of people living in those residential areas also frequented by Vervet monkeys.

Recently a local newspaper published a number of letters from people antagonistically inclined towards the presence of monkeys around their homes. Fears about monkeys possibly attacking babies, spreading rabies and just being monkeys were graphically and emotively presented. This in spite of the fact that Monkey Helpline has for years been educating people regarding the truth about monkeys and debunking the myths that have lead some people to erroneously see them as vermin, carriers of rabies and being prone to attacking and severely injuring adults, children and dogs, even cats on the odd occasion!

Fact is that in KZN monkeys are NOT classified as “vermin” – they are protected nationally in terms of the Animal Protection Act, and provincially in terms of the KZN Nature Conservation Ordinance. They do NOT attack people or their pets, only biting when they are themselves attacked by dogs or if a person tries to catch or hurt a monkey. They are NOT carriers of rabies and there has NEVER been an officially recorded case of a rabid monkey in South Africa. There is NO monkey “over-population” or “population explosion” as so many uninformed people are quick to proclaim when calling for monkeys to be culled or captured and relocated. On the contrary, with so many urban monkeys dying daily from injuries sustained when hit by motor vehicles, attacked and bitten by dogs, shot with pellet guns, electrocuted on power lines, caught in razor wire, poisoned, trapped and snared, these deaths, including those of monkeys dying from injuries sustained during inter- and intra-troop fights which are particularly vicious due to the stress the monkeys are under because of persecution and habitat destruction, are far higher than any population can sustain and certainly far higher than they would suffer from natural predators.

As distressing as it is to deal with the daily consequences of violence against, and indifference to the needs of, monkeys it is also heartwarming and encouraging to know that there are far more people who care about monkeys and want to protect rather than harm them. Monkey-haters are a small, ethically retarded minority of the population but sadly their negative impact on the safety of monkeys is substantial. For example, this past week alone just in Hillcrest, pro-monkey residents assisted the Monkey helpline with rescuing three Vervet monkeys horribly injured after falling victim to human violence.

The first was a young male monkey caught in a snare set on a garden wall in the centre of residential Hillcrest. The snare, made of unraveled strands of bicycle brake cable, was set on top of a pre-cast wall used daily by a troop of monkeys. It was attached to a razor-wire bracket so that when the monkey was snared just above his left ankle, he also injured himself horribly on the razor-wire as he thrashed about trying to escape, even breaking some teeth on the razor-wire as he bit at this thing that was hurting him so much every time he moved (second pic down shows the vet removing a broken tooth from the monkey's jaw). Fortunately, a neighbour saw him struggling and called the Monkey Helpline. We rescued him and with the excellent veterinary treatment received from our vet at Riverside Vet Clinic, Dr Kerry Easson, we will soon be able to free him back to his troop.

The second was a beautiful, mature adult female rescued from a residential complex, also in central residential Hillcrest. Monkey Helpline was called after a caring resident saw what she thought was a dead monkey lying on her lawn. As she approached the monkey she saw movement and realized it was still alive. We rushed the monkey to our vet where an x-ray revealed five pellets in her body (third pic down)). One had passed through her liver causing an enormous abscess which had burst a day or two earlier spewing lethal infection into her abdomen. In spite of a heroic effort by Kerry, which included major surgery to repair pellet damage and flush the infectious pus from her abdomen, she died shortly after she was taken off the operating table. To add to the tragedy was the discovery of a freshly dead, perfectly formed little baby in her womb. It had literally been poisoned to death by the noxious liver abscess (fourth pic down shows mom and unborn baby).

Third was a rear-old little monkey struck by a motor vehicle just a few hundred meters from where the shot female had been rescued the previous day. In spite of the fact that monkeys were visibly crossing the busy road, and responsible motorists were slowing down, it took just one uncaring and unfocussed idiot to race along and right over the young monkey, leaving it for dead in the road and continuing his journey without any concern for the life he had, by all appearances, just ended. Fortunately the incident was witnessed by one of the many monkey-caring families living in the Highway area. They stopped to move the “dead” monkey to the side of the road, as much for its dignity and not wanting to see it squashed by other vehicles as to ensure that more monkeys were not run over as they ran into the road frantically trying to coax their unmoving, bleeding troop-mate to follow them. The actions of these animal lovers actually saved the young monkey’s life because he was still very much alive though deeply unconscious and bleeding profusely from injuries to his lower lip and jaw. Again Kerry’s skill and dedication ensured the monkey’s survival and once his cuts and broken jaw are healed he will be returned to his troop.

These are just three of the many monkeys we have been called out to rescue this past week. I’ll update you on a few more of them in the next blog posting, but one thing that needs to be said is that as much as it is the dramatic rescue effort that ends with a monkey in our carry-box, or wrapped in a towel if it has died, that people notice and support, none of this would be possible were it not for all the amazing people who care enough to phone us when they see a monkey in distress. Without those many phone calls interrupting our lives twenty-four hours a day we would be doing normal day jobs, earning good salaries, having weekends off, going on holiday, and, heaven forbid, maybe even watching an entire Sharks game without having to rush off and rescue a monkey, or one of the many other animals that come our way. Yes, without your calls we would be doing all these things, and every year hundreds of monkeys would suffer or die without any chance of being saved. THANK YOU FOR CARING ENOUGH TO MAKE THAT CALL!