The release enclosure gate is opened and they scamper out into the bush. Living free isn’t that what we want for all wild animals? This month the MKela Troop of 30 adult and 5 baby vervet monkeys are the lucky ones.
It was back in mid 2017 when our family came to visit us in South Africa. On the agenda was introducing them to Silke and give them a taste of the magic she works at her wildlife rescue center. Silke’s specialty is rehabilitating surrendered and confiscated monkeys (monkeys that misguided people thought would make lovely house pets) and rescued orphaned baby monkeys whose mothers died (usually at the hands of humans).
Our kids and grandkids sit enthralled watching the young monkeys in Kindergarten frolicking about, chasing each other at lightening speed from one swinging rope or pole to the next.
“That one with the very black face, he still needs a Guardian Angel,” Silke said while sharing a few stories about the tumbling balls of fur. How she can tell them apart is a mystery!
“We’ll do it,” our oldest daughter replies. After a brief confab with her three kids they determine right there and then to name him MK. The initials of her departed grandparents.
In the years that followed Russ and I would visit Bambelela to see how MK was doing. In 2018 he was just being integrated into a new troop. Things weren’t going that well. Monkeys like humans have a great array of personalities and it takes a bit to get things sorted… pecking order and so on.
When a new troop is formed Silke carefully selects monkeys from Kindergarten and the ExPets enclosures. She tries to a careful blend of males and females, old and young. The new troop enclosure is quite small with a partition to separate the monkeys. A volunteer is appointed to be with them 24/7 to quickly intervene, if necessary, when a disagreement escalates.
Unfortunately, the day we arrived this brand new troop was briefly left unattended and all hell broke loose. Nine monkeys were left injured. Things like tail and feet bites. We watched as Silke and Belinda carefully attended to wounds with the utmost tenderness.
Once the troop settled in it needed a name. Silke invited us to name it. The grandkids came up with MKela. A clever combination of MK and Nikela. The troop was then also transferred to its final rehab enclosure. A huge space full of enrichment tires, branches, swings and places to hide.
Fast forward to 2021 and Russ and I stop by Bambelela and see MK and his family just weeks away from being released back to living free. All the paper work was done, the release site was confirmed and now all that was needed was rain. Silke always makes sure there’s plenty for the monkeys to eat in the wilds before doing a release.
In November 2021 the big move began. Some great photos and the story from Silke herself: