Monday, 18 July 2011


One thing about this business of monkey rescue is that you can be quite sure that you will constantly be challenged to do the almost impossible as a routine part of your daily rescue effort.
One such situation confronted us last Tuesday afternoon, July 12, when we responded to an impassioned plea for help from our veterinarian, Dr Kerry Easson.

Working in her Durban North garden on her day off, Kerry’s attention was drawn to a monkey’s agitated chattering beyond her front hedge. Curious, she went out into the road to see what all the fuss was about and saw an adult female Vervet monkey peering into the storm water drain in the centre of the t-junction intersection close by. Kerry went to the drain and peered through the circular, perforated cast-iron drain cover. She could hardly believe what she saw – a small baby Vervet monkey perched on the stepping rung near the top of the two-and-half meter deep manhole.

Totally flummoxed as to how the monkey had got there, Kerry did the first thing that came to mind - she called Monkey Helpline!

Carol and I jumped into our vehicle and rushed from Westville to Durban North as fast as we could considering we had to negotiate afternoon rush hour traffic made worse by faulty traffic lights and disorganized road works.

We arrived to find an agitated Kerry tapping her wrist watch at us as if to say, “what kept you?”, and a small crowd of curious onlookers and wannabe helpers. It was a relief to see Doug Fairall there. Doug is a friend and feral cat catcher supreme and together we had previously had experiences involving cats rescued from similar situations as this one we now faced with the little monkey.

One look at the tightly set, very heavy cast iron drain cover and we knew that our efforts would be wasted without the necessary heavy duty equipment which we were certain must be a normal part of the Metro water workers’ issued “tool box”.

But we decided to try and lift the lid ourselves before troubling the overworked Metro storm water standby team. Very soon we realized that we would have more success trying to lift the lid on South Africa’s arms deal corruption allegations. Desperate to get the monkey out so that we could reunite her with mommy Vervet who was anxiously waiting in a nearby tree top and keeping a protective eye on proceedings before the fading daylight forced her to follow her troop to their sleeping location, we decided to call out the relevant Metro work team. Calls to Metro water got no response other than unanswered ringing. Calls to the emergency services, however, got an immediate response and in no time a big, bright yellow Fire and Accident Emergency truck arrived with a friendly and willing emergency rescue team. Our joy was short lived when we realized that all they could offer was a bigger crow-bar than the one we had. Their best efforts were to no avail, proving the adage that "bigger isn’t always better" and so, sincerely apologetic at being unable to assist, they departed – with their crow-bar - and a promise to get hold of Metro storm water.

Regularly, as we tried to devise a plan to free the trapped monkey, we could see her small arms and hands stick up through the vents in the drain cover as if beckoning her mother to come and fetch her, and her frightened cries echoed upwards. As soon as it became dark the little monkey stopped calling for her mom and just sat hunched over in depressed acceptance of her fate. With all the banging and clanking, caused by our efforts to lift the drain cover, the little monkey never lifted her head, not even with the constant interference of torchlight being shone into the drain to see if she had moved into one of the connecting drain pipes to escape the noisy activity above her.

Hours, and many frustratingly unproductive phone calls, later we finally had the satisfaction of seeing the Metro Storm Water standby team arriving in their truck. But once again our hopes were dashed when they too offered a crow-bar as the tool of the moment. We could not believe that no special lifting device existed that would easily lift out the stubborn drain cover. So vociferously did we dismiss their offer of a crow bar that they offered to bring a “jack-hammer” to break out the entire cast iron drain top. Thanks, but no thanks! Imagine the terror in that small monkey sitting in the confines of a man hole with a jack-hammer beating the hell out of the road above.

Then sanity prevailed and the shift supervisor, now alerted to the goings on, agreed to come on site and offer the benefit of his experience. Even before arriving he authorized a crane truck to come on site and lift up the drain cover. As the crane truck arrived we knew that the little monkey would soon be safely out of that drain.

Half an hour later, it was already 7.30 pm, the crane lifted the drain cover out of the bed it had been so reluctant to leave. There had been a few frustrating moments when the steel rods, hooked into the drain cover and attached to the crane hook, bent open under strain as if made of plastic, but once these were replaced with heavy duty chains the drain cover came out with surprising ease.

And through all of this commotion the little monkey still huddled over as if by keeping her eyes closed and her back to the world above she would remain safe until her mom could rescue her in the morning. She was easily grabbed and passed into the safe and comforting arms of Carol, a full three-and-a-half hours after we first saw her frightened little face looking up at us from inside the drain. Only then did we realize how tiny she was, probably no older than six months, and covered in small cuts and healing injuries all over her little body.

For the next week or so the little monkey, named Kerry after our vet who first drew our attention to her plight, will stay in the Monkey Helpline "high care". An on-site veterinary check-up showed that she had no physical injuries from her ordeal in the storm water drain but could not discount the possibility of an ailment that might have driven her into the road water run-off drain in the first place. Once Carol is happy that Kerry monkey is healthy and ready to be released, we’ll take her back to where we rescued her and try and reintroduce her to her mother.

Kerry monkey can owe her life to alertness of vet Kerry and the combined efforts and compassion of a whole bunch of people.

What a rescue!!

Pics - Top to bottom:

1 The two-and-half meter deep storm water drain out of which the baby monkey was rescued.

2 Carol takes a hands-on approach in affixing the chains that did the trick.

3 Newly rescued Kerry monkey cuddles safely iunto Carol

4 A relieved, but proud, rescue team with Dr Kerry Easson (green theatre pants left front) and Durban Metro supervisor, Ishen Sukai (extreme right). Ishen's wife, Venesha, and young daughter, Shradda, came along to witness the operation that had called them all away from the comfort of home.

Saturday, 09 July 2011


Last weekend we had the sad task of capturing a handsome young adult male Vervet monkey who was the tragic victim of some morally retarded scumbag who thought he could prove his dubious manhood by shooting an arrow into the body of an unsuspecting monkey.

One can only imagine the pain and anguish suffered by the monkey as the arrow smashed through his body then protruded obscenely from either side, sharp point at one end and gayly coloured feather flights at the other. To watch that monkey in the last hours of his life as he struggled to breath with one collapsed lung and his body shaking from the effects of massive infection, getting weaker by the minute and struggling more and more to hold tight and not fall to the ground far below, is an experience I would hope to erase from my memory but never will.

We can only hope that someone who knows who this coward is will have the courage to contact us and provide the information we need for an arrest and conviction. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to see this despicable person thrown into jail and subjected to whatever might await him there.

As of today the reward offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction has been increased to R12 000 .

Following below is a statement sent through to the South Coast Herald for inclusion in an article published this week about the shooting and subsequent death of this monkey:

"On Saturday evening we were alerted to the plight of a male Vervet monkey in Uvongo. He had been shot through with an arrow from a bow, the arrow penetrating his chest from the left next to his shoulder, and protruding from his abdomen on the right.

The monkey was high in the branches of a dead tree and rather than disturb him at the risk of losing him in the failing light, we decided to return the next morning to dart him with a sedative and catch him that way. We were told that he had been in that tree for at least two days. It was obvious from his labored breathing and the tremors racking his body every now and again that he was in a bad way.

We returned on Sunday and after some effort managed to sedate him and catch him. Unfortunately he died a few minutes after capture. Close inspection and a post mortem at the vet showed that the arrow had passed through the left lung, through the diaphragm and through his liver before exiting the right abdominal body wall.

Severe peritonitis had set in and this monkey suffered terribly before eventually dying from his injuries and the related infection.

It should be stated that this is the fifth monkey that we know to having been shot with an arrow along a sixty kilometer section of the South Coast, stretching from Scottburgh to Uvongo. (Scottburgh – 1 adult male, Pennington – 1 adult female, 1 adult male, Uvongo – 1 adult male, Oslo beach – 1 adult unknown gender).

Most South Coast residents we have spoken to are incensed at this cruelty and are quick to point out this must be the work of a few socially dysfunctional individuals. It is certainly not representative of the attitude of most South Coast residents to monkeys. Even those who consider monkeys a pest and a nuisance would not want to see them injured.

Shooting or in any other way injuring monkeys is an offence in terms of both the provincial conservation ordinance and the national Animal Protection Act, and contravention of these laws carries heavy penalties, which could include both a fine and a jail sentence.

Perceptions that monkeys are breeding out of control are totally wrong. Every troop that we monitor is actually decreasing in size from one year to the next as their habitat is degraded and they have to spend more and more time in urban areas, facing the threat of motor vehicles, dogs, electrocution on high voltage power lines, razor wire, people with pellet guns, paintball guns and catapults, poison, and much more. These cause far more fatalities than natural predators ever did.

Monkey Helpline appeals to members of the public to keep a look out for these ruthless killers of monkeys. We believe that all these cases are related, either carried out by the same person or by a small group of two or three working together. We would like to see a public comment and denouncement of these arrow killings made by the archery/bow hunting fraternity, but their silence has been deafening. This leaves the impression, expressed by many who have contacted us, that these cruel killings are condoned by the archery and bow hunting fraternities.

Anyone with information about any of these shootings can contact Monkey Helpline on 082 659 4711 (Steve) or 082 411 5444 (Carol), or on, on . All information will be treated with utmost discretion and there is an R11000 reward for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator or perpetrators."



Top - The monkey sits forlornly and in terrible pain on a Strelitzia leaf, the arrow clearly visible.

Second down - Carol holds the sedated, dying monkey upright in an attempt to assist his laboured breathing.

Third down - Checking for a heart beat - in vain.

Bottom - Our regular vet, Dr Kerry Easson, does the post mortem to assess the damage causd by the arrow.