Monkeys deserve better understanding

EDITOR – As a result of the increasing number of injured Vervet Monkeys observed in our area lately, one of the most distressing being that of a baby Vervet which became trapped in a roll of razor wire on a garden wall,

I bring the following information from Steve Smit of Monkey Helpline to the public’s attention. This is in the hope that it will give a better understanding of why we all need to be more tolerant of the troops of monkeys who share our space.

1) Territorial Bonding: A troop of monkeys is bonded to its territory through a matrilineal line spanning many generations. Female Vervets never leave the territory of their birth which means that, with the exception of most of the mature adult males, the monkeys you see in the troop where you live, descend from female monkeys who lived right there hundreds of years ago. Even though we have encroached into and destroyed their habitat and their homes, they cannot leave. They have had to adapt and learn to survive in a very “monkey unfriendly world”, and because they have done this with success, they are demonised, harassed, persecuted and killed. In order to survive they need to find food, shelter and security and therefore desperately need our understanding and tolerance.

2) The Rabies myth: So deep is the myth about Vervets and rabies etched into peoples’ minds that just about any defensive behaviour by Vervets, in response to a real or imagined threat, is interpreted as being a sign that the animal is rabid! It is possible that there have been instances when a rabid dog/other animal did manage to attack, bite and infect a free-ranging Vervet Monkey, but the monkey has died from the bite injuries before actually contracting full-blown, transmissible rabies. No Vervet Monkey in South Africa has ever been recorded as carrying rabies.

3) Painting monkeys: Painting a Vervet Monkey or shooting it with a paintball gun is a misguided belief that this will chase the troop of monkeys away from the area. Rather than flee, troop members will attack and harass the painted animal and eventually ostracise it completely. People caught doing this to an animal will be severely dealt with as was the case with an individual living near the Mushroom Farm in Assagay, who recently trapped and painted a female Vervet before releasing her again. This practice is cruel, illegal and serves no purpose whatsoever.

4) Shooting at Vervets: Many people are not aware that discharging an airgun in a built-up area where there is a risk of injury or damage to another person, animal or property is an offence and the person can be prosecuted in terms of the Fire Arms Control Act and in many cases the Animal Protection Act. Please report anyone doing so.

Jacqui Hicks


Lauren Walford

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