Friday, 25 March 2011

"Msinsi miracle"

It has been a while since my last posting, in spite of my good intention to do a posting at least every other day. So much has happened, and continues to happen, and every day brings a new set of highs and lows in our dealings with monkeys and the people who do good things for them, and also the people who do bad things to them.

So I’m going to start this year’s blog sequence with one of the good and happy things that we’ve experienced on the Monkey Helpline front line.

A real highlight was the recent release of Msinsi, a gentle adult male Vervet we rescued about eight months ago in Kloof. He had been terribly injured in a fight with another male Vervet and had lost most of the skin on his right leg. His other injuries, although severe, paled into insignificance by comparison to his damaged leg. Our vet, Dr Kerry Easson, of the Riverside Veterinary Clinic in Durban North, was undaunted. “We’ll do skin grafts and save this leg”, she said confidently! And save the leg she did!

Two pieces of skin were taken from Msinsi’s sides. The procedure for preparing the grafts and placing them strategically seemed so simple, yet it had to be done with surgical precision. The follow up treatment and management of the grafts on the healing leg required visits to the vet every week. At first Msinsi tolerated the bandages on his leg. He became so used to the trips to the vet that we only had to open the door of his clinic cage and he would, unprompted, climb into the transport crate.

Each week we waited in trepidation as Kerry removed the bandages and our joy was without bounds as the grafts were exposed and we could see how well they had taken, and week by week we marveled at the healing process happening miraculously before our eyes. The new skin growth and the ever-reducing wound area filled us with wonder.

But as time passed and Msinsi’s frustration at being confined grew ever more obvious, he started unraveling his bandages. Arriving home after a rescue or other activity to find him sitting there with his leg devoid of protective dressing was enough to challenge my cardiac fitness to the extreme. Each time we rushed him to Kerry for emergency repairs, and each time we left the clinic wondering how long these bandages would stand up to Msinsi’s self-destruct actions. The day that we had to literally turn around before we even got home, and go back to Kerry for running repairs was the day we knew that Kerry needed to come up with a new technique. Her thoughts precisely, and she sent me off to the late night pharmacy to buy super-glue. After re-dressing and bandaging the leg she then wrapped it in Elastoplast – her normal procedure – this time running a trail of super-glue along the entire length of the Elastoplast, around and around his leg from top to bottom, and it worked, much to Msinsi’s consternation! Needless to say this procedure was repeated each week until many weeks and tubes of super-glue later, Kerry decided that the time had come to allow Msinsi to take responsibility for the health of his leg and we took him home with a leg well on the way to healing, but unbandaged!

That lovely monkey was a model patient and never so much as picked at the new and healing skin. Unfortunately, by this stage his atrophied leg muscles were almost non-existent and the leg retracted and mostly useless. But as he spent time in the big outside exercise cage, and the weeks and months passed by, the use of his leg slowly improved to the point where he could grasp with his foot and even put the leg down every now and again as he ran and jumped. He even hold one banana under that foot whist he ate one and held a third in the other hand.

Then three weeks ago we took Msinsi back to the very garden where we had trapped him, and released him into the same tree where he had been sitting before Carol lured him down to our trap with bananas. Liz, the caring person who had originally called us to rescue Msinsi, her domestic worker and her grandchildren, watched as Msinsi leapt from the transport crate and climbed swiftly to the top of the tall tree. We left him there, wondering to ourselves what must be going through his mind as he surveyed the valley. Surely he must make some connection between the circumstances of his capture, the confinement and veterinary treatment which over months took away the pain and gave back the use of his leg, and ultimately us bringing him back and releasing him in a place he is familiar with. Will we ever know?

We asked Liz to let us know if she saw him and sure enough we got an sms a few days later saying that Msinsi was in her garden. We also got a few other calls from people in the area of his release telling us that a large male monkey with an "injured leg" was in the garden or on the roof of their house. When they described the leg we knew it was Msinsi. What a feeling of joy at being able to do for him what we had, with Kerry’s help, done! Absolutely indescribable!

And then yesterday this sms from Liz Ross: “Just seen Msinsi with a big troop. Had a lovely monkey show – they managed to get in and swipe three bananas and sweets!!! He sat on the fence looking long and hard at me while I talked to him…”

Sure makes it all worthwhile!!

Top pic - Msinsi's damaged but healing leg
Second pic down - Msinsi with concerned look on his face en route to being released
Third pic down - Liz and her two grand children say "hi" to Msinsi just before his release
Bottom - Msinsi about to be released