It started three years earlier. First being rescued, nurtured and rehabilitated until the happy day of freedom arrived for this vervet monkey troop.
They’re tiny ‘pink faces’. For one reason or another they’ve lost their mommies and fortunately some kind soul contacted Bambelela. Here Silke and her team nurture around 30 orphaned vervet monkeys every year. These little ones show up between November and December. Some of them are injured others sick or malnourished. All need a temporary human ‘mommy’.
After a few months these youngsters wean themselves from their human care taker and adopt a vervet surrogate mommy. From here on they live with other young monkeys. Once old enough Silke introduces them to a forming troop of older monkeys. The older monkeys are a combination of orphans and former pets. These former pet monkeys were either surrendered by their owners or confiscated by the wildlife authorities.
Creating functioning troops is not as simple as putting monkeys of different gender and ages together. Like us humans each monkey has a distinct personality. There are the alphas, the shy, the recluse, the peacemakers, the aggressors and so on.
Silke watches the monkeys really closely. She observes their behaviors, their personalities and their attitudes. As with human families there are spats of conflict along with love and caring. So it is with monkey troops.
A natural in the wild troop is much like an extended family, with a few friends thrown in. The troops formed at Bambelela range in size from less than twenty to over fifty individuals.
Monty’s troop, whose release we sponsored in early 2017, comprised 54 monkeys of all ages, including three handicapped individuals. For years primate rehabbers thought that monkeys without a limb (sometimes two) or other severe injury could not survive in the wild. However, Silke successfully released a one armed monkey into the wild troop that hangs around the center. After observing him over an extended period of time she got thinking.
One of the enclosures at Bambelela is set aside for handicapped or impaired monkeys. Those without limbs or vision. Even one with only half a mouth (a cruel person put a firecracker in a banana.) Silke decided to revisit the monkeys in the handicapped enclosure. Could any of them possibly get a second chance at living free?
She identified three. They all were successfully integrated into Monty’s troop. Integrated while the troop was still in their huge rehabilitation enclosure (where they stay for about three years.)
While in their rehabilitation enclosure the troop has less and less human contact. Only one caretaker enters their habitat. The same caretaker that will supervise them during the first few months at the release site.
This last month Silke visited the Monty troop release site (which we had visited a few months back with her.) She was happy to report that the troop is still doing well. With three little ones born… born free.
Now there’s little that puts a bigger smile on Silke’s face than this.