Two vervet monkey troops sponsored by Nikela ready for release thanks to the team at Bambelela.
Monty was in bad shape. Losing hair and getting mighty thin. Silke took him out of the Dingaan’s troop enclosure. Over the next weeks things didn’t look good for him. However, with the typical care every monkey at Bambelela receives he pulled through. Now three years later, with a troop named after him, he and 44 other vervet monkeys are ready to be released.
The heavens opened and the rain came down for two days. The Waterberg received more rain that March in 2014 than ever before. The staff and volunteers at Bambelela were scrambling to redirect water away from the enclosures, to dump water from the sagging roof tarps. Then it happened, the distress call went out and all hands were summoned to the enclosure housing a small group of relatively new monkeys. The roof had given way and the monkeys were at risk. We watched from the veranda (footage included in this video.) There was a flurry of water, mud, monkeys and people. The roof was temporarily stabilized. The crisis averted. Tired, drenched but happy volunteers made their way back to the veranda. This was the intro cage used to form Amstel’s Castle troop out of four different monkey groups.
Monty’s troop pays us little attention as we approach their huge enclosure. Young monkeys are playing. Older ones are feeding. A baby or two are clinging to their mothers. A squabble breaks out on the right as several wild monkeys come too close. This is good Silke tells us. It shows that this troop has developed boundaries.
The troop has been carefully formed. Each monkey is evaluated and then, it’s a matter of trial and error. A troop is a good mix of males and females. Some partly grown orphans, ex-pets and those recovered from injury. They are put together in a large enclosure and observed. Most of the time, after a bit of sorting out who’s-who, the troop hierarchy is established. Sometimes a particular monkey, like in a family, doesn’t quite fit in. If the conflict is too severe the animal is removed, however, most of the time they adjust.
This adjustment period is quite a shift for these monkeys, from individual rescue, cared for by humans, to wild animal part of a wild troop. This takes time, generally around three years. In a newly formed troop the monkeys line up along the fence on a beam when humans come close. As the troop rehabilitates they pay less and less attention to the humans. Some even make their alarm call.
Silke and Belinda are real primate experts, always keeping what’s best for the monkey as the primary goal. Most every troop now includes a handicapped monkey. In Monty’s there is one with an arm missing. He has adapted well and is difficult to pick out as he moves as easily around the enclosure as any of them.
Amstel’s Castle Troop
This troop has around 23 monkeys and is the first troop to be formed from four different groups. Two monkeys deemed unreleaseable are part of the troop. One, an older male, has become a protector, like an uncle, to the younger monkeys. He is a very important member of this troop Silke tells us.
Because Silke has found a location nearby to release this group, our contribution will cover the costs of releasing both Monty’s and Amstel’s Castle troops… We’re very excited!
We stand and watch the monkeys in Amstel’s Castle troop. They climb, jump, play and eat contentedly in their enclosure. Silke and Belinda look at them fondly. Belinda calls to one of the monkeys. One that she raised when it came in as an orphan. She ignores her. She no longer needs her. She has moved on. She is now a mother of a few day old little one. I watch Belinda. She is both happy and sad. “It’s the way it should be,” she says turning and walking away.
Two vervet monkey troops ready to go! Just waiting on final site approvals and rain. Rain is crucial so there is sufficient food and water to sustain them.
Here’s to freedom! Here’s to Silke and the Bambelela team!
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