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Poverty and Racism - Attitudes Towards Animal Rights, Animal Welfare and Environmentalism

 By Karin Saks

To call someone a monkey boy is the worst thing you can say.” As someone who has been accepted into a number of wild baboon troops – and who feels immensely appreciative of this rare privilege - these words hit my confusion barometer. I am, after all, immensely proud to be primate.

A few weeks prior to receiving the email that held these words, I came across the extraordinary story about a young Ugandan boy (now a young man), covered in hair and walking on all fours, who had been found living with a troop of vervet monkeys. Once discovered, the boy had then adopted and rehabilitated by a missionary couple.
At the age of five, the child had run away from home, terrified after witnessing his father kill his mother. He’d then learnt how to survive in the forest by joining a troop of monkeys who came to be his closest allies.

I hoped to share this extraordinary, touching story about love and survival but when I wrote to the young man’s guardians, they refused me permission to use his photo. To be associated with monkeys was considered an enormous insult in Uganda.

Saddened to learn that this experience - which has the capacity to teach us more about cross species relationships and the complex nature of vervet monkeys - was viewed as something to be ashamed of, I pondered on the source of this. The parallels between socially constructed categories such as racism, speciesism and sexism were clearly apparent to me yet the ability to embrace this understanding appeared to come from a place of “privilege”. In South Africa, this generally translates to being in a position where one is not consumed daily by hunger and thoughts about how to feed one's family, whether one's children will survive walking to school, and how to help the family dog's mange problem without the help of a vet. Due to our human limitations, we are only able to contain a certain amount of stress and being privileged allows  us to think about aspects that do not relate to our immediate, short-term survival needs. 

Our human default mode is to understand the world firstly through our own experience. When we “see things as we are and not as they are”, our understanding is not only limited, but acting on that understanding without looking at the perspectives of those we are attempting to communicate with - and influence -  is likely to result in a useless road to nowhere.

This article aims to prioritise  working towards real change regarding the abuse of animals and the planet we share and rely on for survival.

Given that whites in South Africa make up about nine percent of the population, and that only a small percentage of whites in South Africa actively fight against cruelty for animals, and that animal rights/welfare and environmental groups are mostly made up of white people, we can conclude that the future for animals in South Africa – both domestic and wild – is likely to be bleak unless we confront the underlying human politics that plague the fight  for animals as well as the fight to save the planet.

A look into old African environmentalism in order to find some common ground between the animal rights/welfare/environmental groups and traditional groups could be a starting point. The aim of this would be to acknowledge our inter-connection - with each other and the planet which supports us. By working towards this we could extend the African concept of Ubuntu to include all life.
Poverty and Racism - Attitudes Towards Animals and the Environment
Two relevant factors which influence our relationship to animals are poverty and racism.

South Africa’s history of apartheid cannot be separated from the fight for the environment, wildlife, animal rights and animal welfare. With animal welfare and, environmental groups being largely white and whites making up a mere nine percent of the population, a clear look into how racism and poverty affects this is desperately needed in order to encourage the majority of the population to join in fighting for a compassionate, society that challenges sexism, racism, speciesism and embraces the fact that our collective struggle to survive is reliant on a healthy planet.

In South Africa, where racial capitalism caused income and social inequality during apartheid, the problems associated with poverty continue. And attitudes towards the environment and animal issues are one aspect of this. “Poverty is a major cause of social tensions and threatens to divide a nation because of the issue of inequalities, in particular income inequality. This happens when wealth in a country is poorly distributed among its citizens. In other words, when a tiny minority has all the money.” (EFFECTS OF POVERTY)

Comments – especially from those who did not suffer the worst aspects of apartheid -- stating that South Africans need to get over apartheid and move on can be found all over social media sites, yet white racism and its counterpart “reverse racism” remain strongly rooted in the present, fueling the tension. The aftermath of racial capitalism as practiced prior to 1994, with its social and economical inequalities, has followed us into the present day. 

A number of scientific ideas on evolution emerged during the 18th century that resulted  in perpetuating racist stereotypes - apes were associated in the European imagination with indigenous people and, indeed, people of African descent. “While most evolutionists believed that all human races descended from the same stock, they also noted that migration, and natural and sexual selection had created human varieties that – in their eyes – appeared superior to Africans or Aborigines.” James Bradley 

By making it seem as if people of a non-European origin were more like apes than humans, these different theories were used to justify plantation slavery in the Americas and colonialism through the rest of the world.
Religious ideas impacted on this as well; while many believed in the unity of the human species, some thought that God had created separate human species. White Europeans were described as closest to the angels, while black Africans and Aborigines were closest to the apes.

Various scientific and religious theories worked together to reinforce the European right to control large areas of the world.

Summoning up an association with monkeys taps into the reminder that has led to indigenous dispossession and the other consequences  of colonialism. When indigenous people were labelled as being closer to animals, it inevitably created a need to distance oneself from animals, hence contributing towards negative attitudes towards animal welfare.

One event which exacerbated the polarization of different groups in South Africa stands out as one we could learn from. In an annual ritual known as Ukushima, young Zulus chase a bull around a kraal, corner the bull and then suffocate the bull to death. In 2010, one of South Africa’s prominent Animal Rights groups, took the matter to court with the goal of getting this practice banned, arguing that traditions need to evolve with the times and that cultural tradition should not be used as an excuse for cruelty. That this tradition is inhumane and unacceptable cannot be argued. However, horrific cruelty can be found in various practices - mostly hidden from us - in abattoirs, medical research laboratories and factory farms. Focusing on this event led to the president’s spokesman claiming that animal right groups were acting out of a desire to impose their civilisation and that this was “racism cloaked as a defence of animal rights” He went on to say:”The disrespect and contempt for African culture and traditions demonstrated by the debate demonstrates the utter hypocrisy of those who have anointed themselves voices of reason. This is reminiscent of the arrival of the European settlers on our shores who declared that our people were barbaric heathens who needed to be civilised.”

The animal rights group denied any racist intention. The focus of their actions was based solely on preventing further cruelty.

The case was interpreted as being disrespectful to the rights bearers as it undermined the dignity of a people once oppressed under apartheid and historically patronised by colonialists.

Whether one sides with the Animal Rights Group or the President’s sentiments, what matters most to those of us who work to help animals is the fact that these actions  backfired on any initiative that seeks to counter animal abuse. 

This approach not only does not work to achieve any progress for the plight of animals, it has further polarised people in South Africa resulting in perpetuating the perception that animal rights and welfare as well as environmentalism is specifically a “white” issue.

 President Zuma sparked further debate in 2012 when he stated that; “Spending money on buying a dog, taking it to the vet and for walks belonged to white culture and was not the African way” He went on to describe people who loved dogs as......“having a lack of humanity”.
While many animal loving black South Africans certainly exist, in spite of massive poverty, the stereotypes persist.

The Khoisan co-existed harmoniously with Baboons

An approach that is more mindful of traditional cultures may help to heal the rift. There are plenty of examples illustrating a respect for the environment before the white man arrived in the Cape in 1652, established farms and then conducted an unprecedented slaughter on our wildlife (For more info - Human/Wildlife Conflict). Before this, the respectful Khoisan had co-existed peacefully with wild animals. 

Credo Mutwa is an extraordinary South African character; he is a traditional healer, psychic 
and talented storyteller. His knowledge of old Africa which has been progressively lost throughout past decades remains a crucial key to understanding our true relationship to nature and other animals. In his book, Isilwane the Animal, he describes how African people did not see us humans as separate from nature in the past: we understood that we are not above animals, trees, fishes and birds but equal to them. Read more about Old African Environmentalism here: Old Africa and the Environment

Comparing Racism and Speciesism – Human Slavery and Animal Slavery: Paul York.

The Case Against Sustainable Use

The Argument Against Consumptive Sustainable Use:

Is it possible to promote the idea of wildlife as a commodity that may be traded, controlled, hunted, subjected to untold cruel practices in the name of biomedical research and entertainment, yet simultaneously expect this practice to foster a respect for wildlife and the environment?

The sustainable use of wildlife can either be consumptive or non-consumptive:

Consumptive use: The killing, trapping and capturing of wild animals for commerce (for ivory, the pet trade, biomedical research) or recreation (sport hunting, entertainment).

Non consumptive Use: An activity that generates income without harming animals or removing them from their habitats.

The concept of sustainable use has been pushed as a sound wildlife management tool, yet in practice it has involved far more “use” (and abuse) and not much sustainability. History has shown that it generally results in the over-exploitation and decimation of the species involved.

Depletion of species used is almost always a foregone conclusion because of several factors, some being:

1.    The short term financial interest and greed (human nature) of the users.

2.    Inadequate scientific knowledge about wildlife populations

3.    The inability to predict the outcome of our attempts to manage wild animals with any degree of accuracy.

These factors and results have almost - without exception - characterised past efforts at consumptive management and the commercial use of wildlife species.


Wild species that are perceived to be in competition with agriculture and forestry are generally painted as healthy and plentiful in spite of the fact that their populations are not monitored. The reason for this is to keep the real damage done to these species hidden from the public so that agriculture can appear to be justified in persecuting them. In Southern Africa, “problem” species have historically been fatally injured and killed in exceptionally cruel ways – poison, gin traps, bow and arrows, dog hunting packs, barbed wire are some of many methods that have been used.

In the past, near Bloemhof about 200 kms west of Johannesburg, a small reserve named the SA Lombard Nature Reserve was in existence. At this reserve, captured predators were fed on meat laced with poisons, while conservation officials recorded the time taken by the animals to die. Dogs were bred (at taxpayers' expense) to supply the dog-packs which hunted the land, killing our wildlife. Large scale barbaric cruelty was carried out, hidden from the tax payers who paid for it. Not much has changed since the days of the Oranjejag hunting club which exterminated 87,570 animals in the Free State alone.

The Wild Dog – once perceived to be a “problem animal” or “damage causing animal”, has been exterminated from large parts of Africa and is an example of how a species that is not monitored, is plagued by misconceptions and is encouraged to be persecuted by legislation and ignorance can become highly endangered due to the message of disrespect conveyed by the consumptive use camp. Today the Wild Dog is one of the continent's most rarely encountered animals.

Other Southern African species that suffer similar effects as perceived “problem animals”, are likely to go the same way unless there is change. The vervet monkey and chacma baboon are generally believed to be healthy due to the fact that they are “commonly” seen in certain areas but the damage caused to troop structures , and how this impacts on related ecosystems has not been taken into consideration. As a result those that work hands-on with these species report a dwindling in numbers and troop structure damage that has a ripple effect on future generations and all related systems.

Founded as the Botswana Wild Dog Research Project in 1989, the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust (BPCT) has expanded to cover all the large carnivore species in Botswana. It is one of the longest running large predator research projects in Africa and one of only a handful of its calibre worldwide.

BPCT research on wild dogs has made it abundantly clear that the health and welfare of the entire predator population is a key indication of overall health of the ecosystem.

Preservationists and animal protectionists have begun to realise the importance of focusing not only on endangered species but on working towards a healthy biodiversity.

In his book Animals In Peril, ex chief executive, John Hoyt from the HSUS, says:

“Whales were supposedly sustainably exploited for decades under the careful scientific management regime of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) – until all eight species of great whales were pronounced endangered.

Sustainable use did not work with such developed North American resources such as grizzly bears, ducks, californian sardines, ancient forests, or just about anything else that has supposedly been managed, conserved, exploited , utilized or harvested on a sustained yield basis.

Not even white tailed deer which have thrived, can be considered an unmitigated management success. Creating and maintaining a “harvestable surplus” of deer has adversely affected other species, and has been achieved by the removal of old growth forests and predators.”

The “Damage” Caused by Elephants Benefits Biodiversity:

A recent study showing environmental benefits conducted by elephants, that are often perceived to be environmentally damaging, illustrates how inadequate scientific knowledge about wildlife populations can be destructive to the environment: ”Areas heavily damaged by elephants are home to more species of amphibians and reptiles than areas where the beasts are excluded”, the study suggests. The findings have been published in the African Journal of Ecology. "Elephants, along with a number of other species, are considered to be ecological engineers because their activities modify the habitat in a way that affects many other species," explained Bruce Schulte, now based at Western Kentucky University, US."They will do everything from digging with their front legs, pulling up grass to knocking down big trees. So they actually change the shape of the landscape."He added that elephants' digestive system was not very good at processing many of the seeds that they eat."As the faeces are also a great fertiliser, the elephants are also able to rejuvenate the landscape by transporting seeds elsewhere," Dr Schulte told BBC News. In the paper, the scientists concluded that difference in abundance and species richness in the damaged areas was probably a result of engineering by elephants, generating new habitats for a diverse array of frog species. Dr Schulte explained the team decided to carry out the study in order to identify effective indicator species that offered an insight into the health of the region's environment. He added that the findings had implications for habitat and wildlife management strategies;"if we are managing habitat, then we clearly have to know what we are managing it for. "What this study point towards is that although things may not look particularly pretty to a human eye does not necessarily mean that it is detrimental to all the life that is there." 



Once upon a time in Africa, people understood that us humans are not above all other animals but equal to them. And so the time has come for us to reflect on the past, present and look deeply to find a solution to the damage we have caused.

Credo Mutwa is an extraordinary South African character; he is a traditional healer, psychic and talented storyteller. His knowledge of old Africa which has been progressively lost throughout past decades remains a crucial key to understanding our true relationship to nature and other animals. In his book, Isilwane the Animal, he describes how African people did not see us humans as separate from nature in the past: we understood that we are not above animals, trees, fishes and birds but equal to them.

Old Africa understood our interconnectedness with all living beings. When the white man came to Africa, the continent was teeming with animals which were then mass slaughtered once they erected their farms.
Credo makes the point that many westerners still believe that conservation was imported by colonial powers into Africa and Ian Player confirms in the foreward to the book that those who worked in reserves and protected areas in Zululand know that conservation existed long before the white man arrived.  He describes how African tribes respected nature and our interconnectedness with the Earth by holding wild animals as their totems – a system which served to preserve the environment and showed a clear respect for a healthy biodiversity.


“Through Isilwane the Animal, I hope to open the eyes of the world to traditional African attitudes, folklore and rituals which have governed the relationships between the people of Africa and the animal world.
Today we see the human race running around in circles, like a mad dog chasing its own tail. Today, the same type of confusion prevails in all fields of human thought. There is confusion in the way we view ourselves, there is confusion in the way we view the earth, there is even confusion, believe it or not, at the core of every one of the world’s religions. I can state this with confidence as I have studied most of these religions and even joined some of them.

 But why the confusion? It is due to the way we view things: the way we view the atom, stars, life on Earth, and the way we view the Deity Himself or Herself. But the most dangerous and destructive view by far – one which has changed human beings into rampaging, destructive and mindless beasts – is that we compare ourselves with other living things.

Western Man is taught that he is the master of all living things. The bible itself enshrines this extreme attitude, as do other great books. Repeatedly one hears of dangerous phrases such as “untamed nature”, or “interrogating nature with power”. One hears of the strange belief that man is superior to all other living things on Earth and that he was especially created to be overlord and custodian of all things animate and inanimate. Until these attitudes are combated and erased from the human mind, Westernised humans will be a danger to all earthly life, including themselves.”
“When white people came to Africa, they had been conditioned to separate themselves spiritually and physically from wildlife. In the vast herds of animals, they saw four footed enemies to be crushed and objects of fun to be destroyed for pleasure. They slaughtered wild animals by the million. It never occurred to the white pioneers that these animals were protected by the native tribes through whose land they migrated. It never occurred to them, with their muskets, rifles and carbines, that black people worshipped these great herds and regarded them as an integral part of their existence on Earth.”

“In old Africa, every tribe had an animal that it regarded as its totem, an animal after which the tribe had been names by its founders. It was the sacred duty of the tribe to ensure that the animal after which it was named was never harmed within the confines of its territory. In addition, Africans knew that certain wild animals co-exist with others, and that in order to protect the animal after which the tribe was named, it was essential to protect those animals with which the sacred one co-existed. In KwaZulu- Natal for example, there is a tribe, the Dube people, for whom the zebra is a totem. These people not only protect vast herds of zebra in their tribal land, allowing them to roam where they choose, but they also protect herds of wildebeest because they realise that zebras co-exist with wildebeest. ...The old Africans knew that to protect the zebra one had to effectively protect the wildebeest, the warthog, the bushpig, the eland, the kudu and other animals sometimes found grazing with zebra in the bush. But the old Africans knew that it was not enough to simply protect those animals which grazed with their totem animal. It was essential to protect those animals which preyed upon their sacred animals.

“There were tribes, such as the Batswana Bakaru and the Bafurutsi, which regarded the Baboon as their totem. They knew that protecting the baboons alone was not enough. The leopard which preyed on the baboon had to be protected, along with the plants upon which the baboon fed. The people knew that if they did not protect the plants, they would starve in the bush and start feeding on the crops in the people’s corn and maize fields. If this occurred, baboons would become man’s enemy.
The Batswana Batloung tribe, whose name means “people of the elephant”, were sworn to protect the elephant. They also protected the rhinoceros and the hippopotamus, which they regarded as the elephant’s cousins. It was believed that an elephant would not injure a person who carried the Bafluong name.”


“The African people knew, just as the native American people knew, that if you destroy the environment, you will ultimately destroy the human race. ...A remarkable Tswana proverb states that, “He who buries the tree, will next bury the wild animal, and after that, bury his own ox, and ultimately bury his own children.” This saying indicates that people were aware, even in ancient times, of the interdependence on all living creatures upon this Earth, and that if you harm one, you harm others and, in the end yourself.” 

Baboons in Africa - Misunderstanding their Language

A Researcher working in Uganda contacted me some time ago to ask if I could help her understand what was happening to the villagers in her area; a group of the women were being "sexually harassed" by a troop of baboons. These "attacks" occurred when the women headed towards the river to do their daily clothes washing.

I asked if anyone had threatened the baboons, or perhaps walked too close to an infant? She answered that the baboon threats were totally unprovoked by the women and they feared they would be "raped".

Baboons do not rape or sexually harass human women.

Bewildered by this story, I questioned the researcher further.

"Were there any men around when these women were threatened by the baboons?"


The men were threatening the baboons to "protect" the women, the reason being fear.

The behaviour described above is a clear cut case of redirected aggression. The baboons were threatening the women because -  in their eyes -  women are "weaker" hence it is safer to threaten a woman who is connected to a hostile man than threaten the man himself.

This is common behaviour among wild primates. If an adult human man attacks -  or strongly threatens -  a male baboon who feels he has to respond, and there happens to be a woman close by, the baboon will threaten the woman.

As far as baboons sexually harassing humans is concerned, it appears that a certain amount of projection was involved in understanding the behaviour of these baboons.

The solution to a problem like this would be for the men and women to ignore the baboons, act passively and be respectful of their troop and territory.

To harmoniously co-exist with wild primates, it requires us to practice tolerance and patience. We need to take the time to understand their language so we can correctly interpret the behaviour that scares us. 

Living With Vervet Monkeys - Loss of Habitat

Living Harmoniously With Vervet Monkeys

In some parts of South Africa, Vervet monkeys have been forced to compete with humans for resources after having their habitat destroyed by human development. On the surface, it may appear that the Vervet monkeys are being deviant but all too often they are genuinely hungry. Human properties have replaced their ancient foraging routes; your home may be on one of these routes.

When monkeys have no choice but to appeal to humans for food:
While there are many educational initiatives advising the public not to feed monkeys, this approach hasn’t worked effectively, especially in areas where monkeys have no choice but to obtain food from urban environments. In cases where monkeys have no option but to seek food from human properties, denying them this option ensures they will look for food on someone else's property - this does not offer a viable solution.  If we accept that compassionate people are likely to feed hungry monkeys in areas where the monkeys have lost their natural food source, then constructive advice on how to feed monkeys is necessary.
 The Hierarchy Connection:
The Vervet troop in your area has worked out a hierarchical relationship with others sharing their territory. This includes human families and the domestic animals connected to them. Vervet monkeys eat according to their hierarchy with the top ranking members having first access to food. Those lower down the hierarchy are allowed to eat only when the top of the hierarchy have had their fill. Vervets do not give their food to others. Vervet mothers do not even share food with their babies. From the monkeys’ point of view, these principles apply to humans which is why it is a problem to feed them by hand.

Never feed a monkey by hand:
The monkeys around our homes are working out a relationship with us.  When a human hands food to a monkey, it may be interpreted as a giving over of power thus giving the message to the monkey that you are taking a submissive position. Giving away your power when feeding a wild primate is the main reason why feeding becomes a problem as the human/monkey relationship progresses. It is due to feeding by hand that certain monkeys are prone to becoming more and more daring and intimidating when approaching humans for food. This behaviour instills fear in people and the consequences tend to result in the monkeys being harmed.
Accepting responsibility for the problem we have created:
 As we are responsible for destroying the natural habitat of monkeys (and other wildlife), it follows that we are responsible for correcting this imbalance which has caused such harm. To protect the wild animals who share our territory, we need to practice tolerance and patience. We need to adapt our lifestyles to live harmoniously with the wildlife whose habitat we have destroyed.

Feeding Stations:
For those residents who choose to co-exist harmoniously by setting up a feeding station we offer the following guidelines:

1. Don’t feed monkeys by hand. This behaviour may show the monkeys you are lower in the hierarchy which encourages them to act demanding and threatening.

2. When you set up a feeding station, do it when the monkeys are not around to see. This ensures that the feeding station will not be associated with humans but will offer the monkeys a food source that they can survive on.

3. A feeding station requires that you place portions of food in at least three different places – preferably out of sight of each other so that the various groups within the troop are fed. One feeding station encourages the top members of the hierarchy to eat while the
others wait and this is likely to cause those lower on the hierarchy to visit your neighbors to check for food there.

4. If you find that the monkeys are visiting at the same time every day and waiting for food, it means they have come to depend on you for that food source. If this is the case, try to limit the food you are putting out so that they eat what is needed but are encouraged to continue on their foraging route to find food elsewhere too. If you feel that the monkeys are visiting because of a drought or because they have no natural habitat to survive in, encourage your neighbors to put out feeding stations as well.
5. Residents who choose to feed monkeys need to be consistent. If you go away, please ensure that someone is there to feed the monkeys in your place.

Your relationship with the monkeys:

It is beneficial to be consistent in your behaviour when the monkeys visit your home. To keep your "power" so that the monkeys do not enter your home, steal food off your table or threaten your pets, use a water bottle to spray at them when they advance or shout and bang on a pot. Remember that the more hungry the monkeys are, the more likely they are to try different methods for getting food. A communal feeding station is a potential solution for both residents and Vervet monkeys.    

Our Relationship With Nature.

My time spent with both orphaned baboons and wild baboon troops brought a clear message about our self-imposed separation from the nature. This message reminded me constantly to see past our pre-conceived notions about species non-human. This lens is necessary if we are to understand wild animals. Letting go of our human based notions about animals also inevitably brings into focus a lost part of the human self.  

DPG orphan baboons with the wild baboon troop.

Recently, I've been  going through all the footage I've taken over the last years. This clip is a short and summarised view of the baboon orphans in my care when I first introduced them to the wild troop. Today, these orphans await the outcome of a future we are trying to secure for them. They are temporarily housed at a nearby wildlife centre - in captivity -  where they are relatively comfortable. However, these scenes brought back the memories of the past... and the freedom they enjoyed before the neighbor farmers and past landlord  stopped us from progressing by co-ercing the authorities into withdrawing our permits.



- Popular misconceptions about the baboon and monkey that are perpetuated by inadequate and contradictory legislation.

- Ambiguous messages conveyed to the public due to loopholes in legislation.
- Policy that does not allow these species to be released  beyond an arbitrary and scientifically flawed limit of 100km radius of  rehabilitation centres in the WC. This pointless limitation makes finding safe, appropriate release sites almost impossible in the Western Cape and impacts adversely on animal welfare.

 Scientists have argued that one cannot allow a forest monkey to be released into a coastal area for example. This hypothesis discounts the fact that the vervet monkey is one of the most adaptable species - third in line to humans and baboons - is therefore not species-specific and is entirely capable of adapting to a wide range of environments.

- Policy that treats provinces as mini-sovereign states, and rigidly prevents these species from being imported and exported between provinces. Taking the small amount of rescue and rehab centres in SA into consideration, this law places great limitations on the rehabilitation of these primates back into the wild.
- An alleged failure on the part of provincial conservation authorities to consider the relevance of  scientific papers that dispute the issue
of genetic pollution.
Contradictory Legislation:

In my dealings with members of the public, I have found that the contradictory message conveyed  encourages the public to treat protection of wildlife as nonsensical, resulting in these laws being widely disobeyed.
These  laws therefore directly impact on the large amount of vervet monkeys and baboons being shot, of orphans that result from this practice and of monkeys being illegally kept as pets.

Popular prejudice against our wild primates is one of the most influential reasons for the manner in which the public treats them. These misconceptions need to be educated out of our culture, not perpetuated by problem animal control attitudes.
One example of a common misconception – Rabies:
Fears that Vervets are carriers of rabies or other infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans are unfounded. Like us, vervets are primates – if they carried rabies, we would be carriers too. Any mammal is able to contract rabies though.

According to Monkey Helpline of EKZN, the state vet reported that no vervet monkey rabies case has ever been recorded.


Considering that conservation policies and public misconceptions directly impact on the
widespread abuse of these primate species, reputable sanctuaries and rehabilitation centres should perhaps be able to expect more support from the government in terms of sponsorship and a willingness to consider more protective legislation that is actively
enforced to ensure the work of these centres has the potential to progress in the best interests of the species and biodiversity.

This is far from the case. To date, we have found that a number of “wildlife centres” or 'sanctuaries” with commercial agendas are the centres that are most likely to be financially viable and flourish.

In short, conservation policies are encouraging the proliferation of commercially viable 'wildlife centres' where the potential for animal exploitation is strong.

This is far from being an ideal situation for the many orphaned and injured animals who need rescue and protection.
There are over 600 baboons awaiting rehabilitation and over 700 vervet monkeys at the two most established primate sanctuaries in South Africa. The backlog of orphans residing at these centres is an indication of how severe the problem is and indicates:

-the lack of safe, appropriate release sites available, and the failure of conservation services to pro-actively promote and assist with, troop releases.

-The number of wild primates orphaned due to the popular notion that they are “worthless” animals

-The inadequate financial support offered by government.

The best answer to this widespread problem would be for conservation authorities to adopt a far more supportive role towards rehab centres, and to take animal welfare far more seriously.  They should also remove onerous policy conditions, and promote uniform and protective legislation that is strongly enforced by them.
This solution would ensure that this species are no longer persecuted, seen to be worthless and less orphans and pets would be the result. The pressure on present rescue and rehabilitation centres would be lessened and full release back into the wild would become far more viable.

  • Karin Saks Darwinprimategroup Remembering this note I wrote a while ago. Considering our present situation and the many facets outlined above that plague most primate rehab/rescue centre in this country, we need to find a way forward in a manner that provides real, workable solutions that is in the best interests of the animals.

  • Karin Saks Darwinprimategroup Some of you have asked why our free roaming rescued monkeys were removed by the authorities to be placed in cages (temporarily). The answer is: the fear of genetic pollution - to put it simply, the law does not allow monkeys that come from beyond a 100 km radius to be released here. The fact that those free roaming monkeys probably did come from within a 100 km radius is not accepted due to us being unable to prove their origins (i.e. the person who brought the monkey in to us could have been lying about the monkey's origins).

  • Karin Saks Darwinprimategroup Hopefully the above also explains why primate rescue in South Africa is not merely a conservation issue but is very much an animal welfare issue and should be approached as such.

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