Human-wildlife conflict in numerous South African cities and communities involve these misunderstood primates.
A gated upper scale residential area is the last place we expect to find a place of healing for injured Vervet monkeys. As we drive up to the address Carol provided we think we must have gotten it wrong. However, as we enter the property amongst the landscaping and where neighbors have lawns and a tennis court, we find enclosures with chattering primates. We are at Monkey Hotline.
Unlike some rescue/rehabbers Carol and Steve are energized and despite the enormous challenges are hopeful and ever enthused to save the Vervets in the suburbs of Durban. As we chat Carol is called away by a phone call at least three times. Each time she calmly educates and directs the caller to a probable solution to their Vervet ‘problem’. When a call comes in regarding an injured monkey, Steve tells us, they’re on their way, no matter what time of day or night it is.
Russ and I marvel… doesn’t it get old after all these years, day in and day out? Then we watch them soothing one of their newest ‘patience’, a small baby Vervet with a broken leg and swollen hands… and we see why not, they simply love these animals!
This particular little one was found on the hot tar huddling next to its dead mother who’d been hit by a car. In South Africa Vervet monkeys are viewed as pests. And after being here we can see how they can be. They get into the rubbish bin (trash can) and sneak into open windows to steal food (no screens and windows can be open much of the year as the climate is fabulous).
So like in many countries, pesky wildlife is poisoned, shot or trapped, instead of humans finding a way to get-along. As each species serves a purpose in the bigger scheme of things. For example in places where snakes have been eliminated there are frequently rodent problems.
What can people do to reduce the annoyance of monkeys in their garden? Carol and Steve spend time in the schools, with civic groups and even write stories for the local newspapers to help people understand Vervets and how to coexist with them.
After visiting the ‘Care Center’ (in the house) where all newly ‘admitted patients’ are monitored, we move on to the large enclosures in various parts of the garden. Ideally monkeys are released back to their troop within a matter of weeks. Some can’t be returned… if they don’t have a troop or their injury requires months to heal. Those in the latter group are integrated into an artificially created troop. This takes a great deal of understanding about primates… their hierarchy and social norms.
Finding appropriate release sites in a city and suburbs is an ongoing challenge, so when Carol connected with Yvette from the Lawrence Anthony Earth Org it was heaven sent. Now they are working on building pre-release areas on Community Conservation land outside of Pietermaritzburg. These will allow the final phase in the rehab process to prepare such a blended troop for a successful release.
After the grand tour we enjoy orange soda in their humbly furnished dinning area. Carol and Steve provide an amazing service, not only to the primates whose lives they save everyday, but to the communities surrounding them. Their approach appears well rounded as they work both sides of the continuum… give Vervets a chance to survive life in the suburbs and humans the information and encouragement to live more peaceably with these, maybe not too distant cousins.
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