Monday, August 18, 2008



On the 6th Aug the Boss man Mitch planned for us to go to the Vervet Monkey reserve near Tzaneen (silent T) to help build a new monkey enclosure. It was a 3 hour trip to get there and we were to camp inside the sanctuary for 2 nights and return on the Friday – at least that was the plan.

7 days later we were still there. Like everyone else I had only brought enough underwear and socks for 3 days. My 1 pair of trousers split on the 2nd day right down the front. My attempts to sew them back together only resulted in a very bad stitch except where I had sewen my boxer to the trousers (yes I did the sewing with the trousers on me – just shut up!)

Things I learnt while I was at the Vervet Monkey Sanctuary:

1. NEVER EVER try to feed Monkeys through an electrified fence! I nearly jumped 6 feet when my hand got shocked.
2. Be careful of vervet monkeys in trees overhead. They have very good aim with both pee and poo!
3. Vervet monkeys have bright blue balls! (pic to follow!)
4. Always zip up your tent or else the monkeys will raid any crisps or nuts you have in it (as Rob found out)

Eventually we did get all the fence done and it’s a shit-hot fence too. 650m in length with enough room for up to 50-70 monkeys. 12 feet high with half of it electrified. It has still to be wired up to a solar panel powered battery making it totally self sufficient and with alarms as well. Basically state of the art security (I think the south Africans are pretty good at that sort of thing).

Rays Rants – Vervet Monkey Sanctuary

After working on the fence at this sanctuary for nearly a week you get to see how the place is run – or rather not run. At first glance it looks quite good with volunteers sitting around in the cages with monkeys and having a nice relaxing time. Like their chemical toilets everything looks nice on the surface, but shine a torch into the hole and it’s a whole different story!

Basically the place is a hippy commune with monkeys thrown in on the side. The main workers and long term volunteers are a group of pot heads (two of them even call each other dude for chrissakes!). One of the black workers (who seems to wear white gloves all the time) seems to be the dealer although I think they also grow there own stuff.

The place is totally vegetarian and nothing is allowed to be killed. For
us blow-in workers the vegetarian thing just did not happen – we had our own gas cooker and made great big chicken/pork or beef stews while the sanctuary volunteers trudged by to get their veggie gruel.

The whole problem with this no kill, laid back hippie attitude is that the monkeys are suffering. A lot of the enclosures are badly in need of repair resulting in monkeys quite easily escaping from them and running wild. Due to lack of space a lot of the injured and sick monkeys at the hospital are in extremely small cages (some as small as 2 feet by 2 feet) and are kept there for long periods. The no kill rule means that the hospital is infested with rats which run rampant. I came in to the hospital one morning to find a box of syringes all over the floor because the rats had knocked them over. There are monkeys which are slowly dying from disease in cramped cages because they are not humanely put to sleep.

But the worst thing about the whole set up is that the monkeys are allowed to breed. Vervet monkeys are regarded as vermin in South Africa as they are very common. You are not allowed to release any of the monkeys back into the wild. As a sanctuary the place should be dealing with injured or orphaned monkeys and they should be neutered in some form to stop them reproducing. The place has over 700 monkeys at present.

So why did we bother to help by putting up a new enclosure? Enkosini donated the entire fence and workers (us and their own fence workers) to put up a new enclosure 4 times the size of any of their current enclosures. It took 2 weeks to do – some of the other enclosures apparently took over a year to put up. Once complete it will allow 50-70 monkeys to roam around in proper surroundings rather than be in cramped cages. Hopefully other things will now be done to this sanctuary to sort it out once and for all.

No comments: