Thursday, 28 April 2011


Not a day goes by that I am not blown away by the ignorance of people. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not maligning everyone who doesn’t know everything about all that is dear to my heart. The folk I am referring to are those geniuses who make absolute statements about things they actually know very little about, and, because this is the Monkey Helpline blog, it’s the Vervet monkeys who are, as usual, central to my stint on the soap box.

It seems that in a world of frustration at our inability to get on top of so many things that impact on our lives, such as essential service price hikes, crime, traffic jams caused by uncoordinated road-works or out-of-order traffic lights, politicians we don’t like, want or need, and so much more, we have to find something to vent on. And don’t Vervets make the perfect target for the disgruntled and frustrated!

In targeting Vervets, the accusers often make the most ridiculous statements as justification for their anti-Vervet attitudes and actions!

A real gem recently was a “knower-of-all-things” asking me if anyone was going to do “anything to deal with the monkey population explosion”. I told her in no uncertain terms that only an uninformed person could claim that there is a Vervet overpopulation. I tried to explain to her, in simple terms, the dynamics of Vervet monkey troops - the increases and decreases in the troop numbers from year to year, and why Vervet populations in urban and agricultural areas are undoubtedly on the decline because, in spite of an absence of so-called natural predators in the areas where these monkeys occur, the human predator is far more lethal than any natural predator could ever be. That Monkey Helpline does an average of two monkey rescues every day, 365 days a year, should tell you what a terrible situation Vervet monkeys face. And we see only the tip of the iceberg!

It amazes me that people who know little or nothing about natural processes and population dynamics, and even people who claim to be knowledgeable about such things, can make the most stupid statements regarding Vervet monkeys. And of course the number one gem of knowledge is this one about “overpopulation due to loss of natural predators”.

In the first place, how can anyone talk about an “overpopulation” if they haven’t the foggiest idea what a normal population size is? How often don’t we hear that “this morning we were invaded by a troop of monkeys at least 8, 12, or 15, or, heaven forbid, even 20 strong.” And then they add the cherry to the top, telling us that “every female is carrying a baby” as if that confirms the “breeding out of control”, whatever this might mean! In truth, a healthy Vervet troop size in urban areas should be 35 to 50 individuals. That we rarely see troops approaching 50 members is a clear sign that urban Vervets are in serious trouble!

And I was amused to learn that Vervet monkeys have “litters”, although how many on average per litter I was unable to establish, and that Vervets can “start having babies at the age of six months and that they are pregnant for six to eight weeks”. Fancy that! And all the while I thought that Vervets commonly have one baby, rarely twins, after a seven month pregnancy, and that female Vervets living freely usually only fall pregnant for the first time after they reach four years of age. Just goes to show that one is never too old to learn!

Fact is, there can’t be too many wild animals sharing our living space who are so misunderstood, maligned and persecuted as are Vervet monkeys. And because of this they bear the brunt of our actions that are generated by ignorance, intolerance and prejudice, with the result that they suffer terribly because of this, and so desperately need our understanding, tolerance, protection and care!

By now readers of this blog might have come to the conclusion that I am passionate about Veverts. I make no apologies for this, but then I am passionate about all animals, and in awe of nature generally. And I am horrified by what we humans have done to nature and all its components, including those that share with us so much of what makes us human and which has resulted in a “universal declaration of human rights”. Any sensitive person has only to devote a small amount of time and effort to getting to know about Vervets, who they are, why they are here in “our” space, and why they do the things that they do, and you would begin to ask yourself how we can allow them to be treated so badly – and, yes, this same line of reasoning applies to all animals, wild and domesticated, but as I stated at the beginning of this post, this is the Monkey Helpline blog!

The real tragedy of the situation facing Vervet monkeys is that it is only a relatively small number of people who will deliberately harm them, and yet the actions of this small number of moral retrards can, and does, create hell on earth for the Vervets. They shoot, poison, trap, snare and imprison Vervets with heartless zest. This, on top of the unintentional death, injury and suffering caused to Vervets by motor vehicles, dogs, high voltage power-lines, razor wire and more, makes their experience of humans something they could definitely do without.

But our experience of Vervets could so easily be something really positive. We must debunk the myths that inform peoples’ prejudice against Vervets – they are not “vermin”; they are protected by provincial and national conservation and animal welfare legislation; they do not attack humans or pets unless severely provoked to protect themselves; they are not carriers of rabies (there has never been a recorded case of rabies in a Vervet in South Africa), and there is NO Vervet overpopulation. Take time to get to know them and you will be in awe of these little animals as they grace us with their presence.

There is much we can do to right the wrongs that so negatively affect the lives of Vervet monkeys every day. Monkey Helpline is at the forefront, with a number of other organisations and individuals, of the fight for Vervets. But we cannot do this without your help, and the help of everyone you know, and the help of everyone that they know, and so on. And the first and easiest action you can take to help us help Vervets is to join Monkey Helpline, or any other Vervet care organization. Monkey Helpline has no joining or membership fee. Your visible support is what the Vervets need. If every animal-caring person becomes a member of a monkey-caring organization we will carry an enormous body of public support with us as we seek to make this a better world for Vervets.

You can be a part of something seriously worthwhile. All it will cost you is the time it takes you to email us on or with your name, address and contact details. Type “Monkey Helpline membership” in the subject line!

Do it now!

Pics 1 down to 5:

1 - A juvenile Vervet monkey rescued by Monkey Helpline after being severely mauled during and intra-troop squabble. Many youngsters are killed under these circumstances, often caused by excess stress in a troop due to the persecution and habitat destruction Vervet troops are having to deal with daily. "Face", as this young Vervet was named, was nursed back to health by Monkey Helpline rescuer, Carol Booth, even regaining the full use of her right eye. Once healthy, she was kindly given a safe and happy forever home with Shesh and Malcolm Roberts at the Tumbili Sanctuary near Pietermaritzburg.

2 - This beautiful young female Vervet monkey was shot and killed with a pellet gun after being knocked from a garden wall by a stone thrown at her by a construction worker who wanted to eat her. The owner of the house walked up to the disabled and screaming monkey and shot her. Charges have been laid in terms of both the Firearm Control Act and the Animal Protection Act.

3 - This handsome youg sub-adult Vervet monkey was caught in a snare in the affluent suburb of La Lucia outside Durban. Wherever building construction is taking place and Vervets are around, snaring is rife. Fortunately this monkey managed to brake the snare cable but was still at risk of dying from the injury it caused. Monkey Helpline trapped the monkey, and after our vet, Dr Kerry Easson, removed the snare and treated the injury, he was kept in a recovery cage in the Monkey Helpline "high-care" for two weeks then released back into his troop.

4 - Sadly this sixteen-week-old Vervet monkey was electrocuted on high voltage powerlines and was mercifully euthanised after being rescued by Monkey Helpline. It is a tragic fate that befalls numerous Vervet monkeys every year.

5 - Hard to believe that these two beautiful adult male Vervet monkeys were rescued by Monkey Helpline during two successive rescues on the same day. Both were in the advanced stages of tetanus infection and suffering the indescribable pain that characterises this infection. Both were taken to our vet, Dr Kerry Easson, and gently euthanised.

Monday, 11 April 2011

More "paintball pain".

Oh so sore!

Our previous Monkey Helpline blog post about the effects of paintball guns on Vervet monkeys and other animals inspired my daughter, Kiron, who lives in Gauteng, to send a few pics of injuries she has suffered whislt engaging in paintball games at a paintball range (the only place a paintball should be fired at a living being – other than when used for self-protection against criminals!) At the time of these injuries she was wearing protective clothing...

Looking at these injuries, caused by a paintball gun that is set at the maximum velocity for use at a paintball range, namely, 270 feet per second, you can imagine the damage caused by a paintball fired at around 400 feet per second!! No wonder Mr Macho won’t take up my challenge to let me shoot him with his own paintball gun from a distance of ten meters.

But then I shouldn’t be surprised. People who are cruel to animals really are just cowardly moral retards!

Thanks for sharing your pain with us, Kiron. The pictures speak volumes!

Thursday, 07 April 2011

The "PAIN" in Paintball.

Comment on the use of Paintball guns against animals.

Increasingly we, Monkey Helpline, come across people who tell us that their neighbour or someone they know shoots at monkeys or other animals with a paintball gun. And on a number of occasions when we have done public presentations, so-called animal-friendly people, nearly always males, have told us that they chase away Vervet monkeys or other “ troublesome” animals by shooting at them with a paintball gun. They are adamant that the paintball does not hurt too seriously and certainly won’t maim or kill the animal! We beg to differ, seriously differ!

My response to these Neanderthals is to challenge them to let me shoot them with their own paintball gun from a ten meter distance, and I’ll set the speed at which the paintball is fired. You guessed right – NO TAKERS!! Can’t understand though, because Mr Macho has just told me that the paintball doesn’t really hurt the monkey! We have on more than one occasion rescued monkeys splashed in paint from the paintballs shot at them. We rescued a young monkey (see pic ) with severe concussion after a witness actually saw him being shot against his head with a paintball. He later died from a brain hemorrhage!

The question I always ask is, “Then tell me why, when people play their paintball games, do they wear such serious protection gear”? I see special-impact-lessening vests, helmets, eye protection and much more. I also see the painful injuries people suffer during these games when a paintball hits a less protected part of their body. Looking at those injuries I can only imagine the impact with which the paintball strikes the body of a small animal like a monkey, cat or bird. It must be phenomenal, and both terrifying and excruciatingly painful!

It’s definitely time to introduce restrictions on the random use of paintball guns in residential areas and also as a means of chasing away animals. Most metropolitan by-laws allow for prosecution of anyone doing anything, or acting in a manner, that could cause damage to property or injury to any person. The malicious use of paintball guns would in all likelihood fall under the control of such a by-law. But it is time to act more directly against paintball violence and specific laws are urgently needed. As more and more people claim that they have purchased their paintball gun for self defence in our crime-ridden country, so the nature of the objects used as paintball ammunition become more dangerous, and so the effect on animal targets becomes more lethal.

It’s a simple fact borne out by visible evidence: paintball guns are not toys – in the wrong hands they are dangerous weapons that are being used to perpetrate terrible acts of cruelty against monkeys and other animals!!