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LIVING WITH MONKEYS/BABOONS

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This site was created with one objective: to provide a platform for those seeking primate related information. Although it is a blog site, and comments are read and sometimes added, it is not our intention to have an interactive blog. Residents wanting to liase on how to co-exist with monkeys or baboons, please contact us via email. Given the stats data we receive, many people from all over the world visit our site daily, particularly the slide show on how to co-exist with wild primates. We welcome you all and thank you for popping by.

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OLD AFRICA AND THE ENVIRONMENT

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.


Excerpts from ISILWANE THE ANIMAL BY CREDO MUTWA:

“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.”

CONSERVATION AND THE TOTEM SYSTEM:
“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.”

BIODIVERSITY:

“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.” 

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.

EXAMPLES OF DAMAGED WILD POPULATIONS:

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." 
 

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?"

"Yes".

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.  

VOLUNTEER AT DREAMSKILLS




VOLUNTEERS NEEDED AT DREAMSKILLS

www.dreamskillsafrica.wordpress.com
 dreamskills1@live.com

THE LINK BETWEEN HUMAN AND ANIMAL ABUSE - WORKING TOWARDS A NON-VIOLENT SOCIETY

DREAMSKILLS is a project created by Karin Saks (Darwin Primate Group CEO) and Terence Olivier (Rainbow Warriors SA CEO).

As a volunteer working with us you will first be trained as a mentor who will go on to conduct workshops with students from disadvantaged communities in our area.
Each volunteer donation goes towards sponsoring two students per week.

It has been identified that there is a critical need to confront the growing social problems around domestic animal and wildlife abuse in Southern Africa. The link between animal and human abuse which perpetuates a violent society, makes this need crucial.

The explosion of cat and dog populations in third world countries has escalated at an alarming rate as poverty stricken areas increase. This has brought about a rise in animal abuse which continues to pose a health threat to developing communities. As the presence of animal abuse increases in poverty stricken areas, it is a sure sign that human abuse is increasing as well.

Human development continues to encroach on the territories of neighboring wildlife, natural habitats are destroyed, and these species often have no option but to compete with humans for resources which all too often results in cruel methods used to kill these animals.

 Poverty - along with cultural custom - has contributed to a domestic animal explosion, the mass murder of specific wildlife species and the extermination of wildlife that is forced to compete with humans for resources.

Added to this, children as young as eight years old are being lured into a life of crime and drugs with the consequences being a desensitization to violence and the automatic tendency to objectify animals in order to carry out acts of extreme cruelty such as dog fighting and gang initiations.

Dreamskills aims to educate the public on all matters pertaining to wild and domestic animals in order to create a more humane society that will contribute to a less violent future,benefits our children, our animals, the environment, and ensures the future success of this country.

Our programs are aimed at the youth, the public and businesses. We are linked to a UK based, online training academy called Animal Jobs Direct who provide over 60 different career based Animal specific programs. This partnership gives our youth an option to develop a career in Animal Welfare.Venturing into townships to educate has become dangerous hence we offer educational programs at our centre.
Our training program is based on a 4.4 hectare piece of land in Hibberdene, KZN. The property contains student accommodation (eight students can be accommodated at a time), volunteer accommodation, training room and management accommodation. The property is ideal for teaching students (many who have never had the comfort of a bed or experienced a hot shower) about Animal Care, Protection and Welfare.

The facility is set high on a hill overlooking the holiday town of Hibberdene with a 180 degree sea view in front and the Kwazulu Natal Tropical forest behind it. The property boasts its own natural dam and is teaming with vervet monkeys, bush buck, duiker, bush pig, reed buck, birdlife and other wildlife.



DPG orphan baboons with the wild baboon troop.

video
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.


OBSTACLES TO THE REHABILITATION OF VERVET MONKEYS AND CHACMA BABOONS BACK INTO THE WILD:


OBSTACLES TO THE REHABILITATION OF VERVET MONKEYS AND CHACMA BABOONS BACK INTO THE WILD:

- 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.
INADEQUATE LEGAL PROTECTION:
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 MISCONCEPTIONS:
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.


INADEQUATE SPONSORSHIP OF REPUTABLE REHABILITATION CENTRES:

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.
THE PRESENT REALITY:
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.


SOLUTION:
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.

Saving our PRIMATES at Darwin Primate Sanctuary!

  

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We Oppose the Keeping of Monkeys as Pets - Read this to Find Out Why.

Are You Sure You Want a Monkey?
Monkey Matters Magazine
Animated, intelligent, eerily "human," monkeys are among the most fascinating animals on our planet. That's why monkeys would seem to make delightful pets. But, unlike dogs or cats, primates (all monkeys and apes) have not evolved over thousands of years to live compatibly with humans. Monkeys are not domestic pets. They are wild animals ill-equipped to adapt to the alien world of their human cousins. Keeping primates happy and healthy in captivity is difficult, expensive and time-consuming.
As you think about bringing a monkey into your home, please consider the following:
Are you prepared to live with a wild animal?
Never forget that a monkey is a wild animal. Like raccoons, their infant friendliness fades as they reach adulthood, when they become aggressive and can attack with the slightest provocation. Most monkeys you see on television or out in public are very young; adults are rarely seen outside of a cage. Even hand-rearing an infant primate does not stop this natural change in behavior. In fact, depriving a baby monkey of a normal relationship with its mother and family group can result in a lifetime of neurotic behavior.
Can you deal with the mess?
All monkey homes share something in common: broken lamps and housewares, shredded curtains, unearthed house plants - not to mention the unmistakable odor.
You must watch your monkey every second it's free. Even the smallest squirrel monkey can open a cupboard and spill containers of flour, sugar and liquid in minutes. Larger monkeys can open refrigerators, turn on faucets, rip through window screens, unlock outside doors, turn over chairs, tables, stereos and televisions. Toxic substances and medicines must be kept locked. If you can't stand cleaning up urine, feces and occasional diarrhea, don't get a monkey. Remember, that means cleaning and disinfecting every day at least, 365 days a year! Monkeys are very excitable animals. They will immediately relieve themselves whenever, and wherever, they are upset. And monkeys cannot be easily house-broken. Though you may be somewhat successful diapering or toilet training a young monkey, once the monkey reaches maturity, training is usually forgotten or ignored.
Is it legal in your area to keep a monkey?
Contact the appropriate regulatory agencies in your area (e.g. fish and game, animal control, health department) to learn of restrictions concerning individuals keeping non-human primates. Some cities and states prohibit the keeping of some or all primates, while others require special permits. Don't wait until you have a monkey to learn it's against the law in your city or state.
What will happen when your monkey grows up?
Young monkeys, like all baby animals, are sweet-natured and devoted. But be prepared for a complete change of personality when your monkey reaches sexual maturity. All monkeys become temperamental as they grow older. Keepers must be extremely sensitive to their moods, for primates will attack even their primary caretakers -- often with no warning. Like humans, each monkey has a distinct personality: some don't trust strangers or children, while others will suddenly change their devotion from one family member to another. Dressing infant monkeys up like dolls can seem irresistible. But as they grow older, most primates refuse to allow themselves to be dressed. Those purchased as surrogate children are quickly dumped when they don't live up to expectations. And if you'd like to train a monkey to do tricks, forget it ...unless you are a professional animal trainer. Even then, trainers replace their primates once they reach sexual maturity and become dangerous (most are mature by the age of four). Finally, don't forget that monkeys are uninhibited creatures who engage in natural activities that may embarrass you, including genitalia displays, masturbation, copulation and same-sex mounting.
Can you cope with aggression - and sharp teeth?
No matter what you may be told, ALL MONKEYS BITE. Biting is a primate's expression of anger and nothing you can do will change that. Punishment is usually taken as a threat and can have serious consequences. And contrary to popular belief, spaying or neutering your monkey will have little or no effect on curbing aggression. And teeth removal is not only harmful and cruel, it doesn't remove the danger: a toothless monkey can still cause painful injuries. For the protection of both the monkey and people, you must keep your primate from contact with any and all strangers -- that includes friends of your children, neighbors and relatives. In many states, health departments will destroy a monkey that has bitten to test it for rabies. You should also invest in liability insurance -- people who are bitten can sue. And make sure you have some type of comprehensive health insurance for you and your family. A bite on the hand from an adult monkey can put you out of commission for weeks.
Can you guarantee a good home for the next 20 to 40 years?
Those are the average life-spans of well tended captive primates. Monkeys don't adapt well to new situations -- especially the addition of a new spouse or children. If you are a young person, ask yourself what will happen to your monkey when you grow up. Who will take care of the monkey if you go away to college, get a job in another area or join the military? It's never easy finding a new home for an adult monkey, for they have no resale value once they outgrow their infant charm. Remember, your responsibility to the monkey will not disappear as you mature or change your life-style.
Do you have enough space? The right space?
If you don't have room for a LARGE cage, don't get a monkey. The minimum cage size for the smallest monkey is 4 ft x 6 ft x 6 ft. Monkeys require ample room (indoors and outdoors) for vigorous exercise, together with a small, enclosed area for sleeping. Many simian keepers have given over entire rooms to their monkeys! Primates become depressed, even insane, if they don't get enough mental and physical stimulation. Tire swings, climbing ropes and toys must be replaced constantly as the monkey grows bored. A monkey's environment must also be warm, dry and free from drafts. Monkeys like to sunbathe for short periods and need the vitamin D from the sun, so they must be provided with both indoor and outdoor caging with shade. If this is impossible, vitamin D must be provided orally or through the use of special vita-lights.
Can you afford the cost of feeding and caring for a monkey?
If you can't afford $25.00 (and more) per week per monkey, don't get one. Monkeys cannot live on peanuts and bananas alone. Some species have peculiar dietary needs, but all primates require a well balanced diet. This can include a foundation of commercial primate biscuits supplemented by lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, vitamins and live insects.
Who will care for your monkey when you're away?
If you like to take vacations, don't get a monkey. Monkeys like routine and familiar surroundings; they are not good traveling companions. Finding someone to monkey-sit (that means feeding, cleaning and providing hours of companionship) can be very difficult. If a monkey is left alone each day, even for just a few hours, it can suffer psychologically and may develop aberrant behavior. To keep it company, you must consider adding another of its species or perhaps keeping a small troupe of monkeys to nurture and communicate with one another.
Is there a vet in your area qualified to care for a monkey?
Many vets know very little about primates, and some won't accept primates as patients. You may have to drive hundreds of miles to obtain the most routine medical care. Before you bring a monkey home, be sure to have a qualified vet give it a complete physical. Monkeys can be permanent carriers of serious illnesses such as tuberculosis, herpes and ebola.
We hope that you will consider carefully your decision to get a monkey. If you are willing to put up with the enormous sacrifice necessary to maintain a happy and healthy simian, we invite you to join the Simian Society of America and learn firsthand about primate care before you take the plunge.

Farmers vs Wildlife - The Crags

The Crags is an agricultural area bordering the Tsitsikamma National Park. There are no fences preventing wildlife from wandering on to agricultural land where they are vulnerable to dying tortuous deaths in poachers traps, being shot by local farmers and residents or being electrocuted on pylons.

Wild primates are attracted by compost heaps, garbage, vegetable gardens, farmer's crops and horse/cow feed amongst other attractions and The Crags has an abundance of these attractions displayed by avocado/tomato and dairy farmers.


ABOVE: ENTRANCE TO THE DARWIN PRIMATE GROUP - THE CRAGS 2012

The DPG works to educate residents on how to co-exist with wildlife. This includes not feeding baboons, monkeys and other wildlife by hand, removing/hiding all attractions from properties where owners are willing to co-exist with wildlife harmoniously and adapting human buildings to ensure they are safe from any potential damage caused by wild primates.



 Baboon Woman: Story of a Gentle Power House


By Maggie Sergio for The Huffington Post
May 2012

I heard gunfire as my friend and I walked passed a farm on a dirt road about 300 yards from her home.  It was a sunny Tuesday morning on March 26th of this year.  We had ventured out for an early morning walk with her three dogs.  The last thing I expected was to hear gunshots and to witness an assault on wildlife.  Or worse, was this angry farmer looking to send a message to my new friend Karin Saks, aka “Baboon Woman?”
It started as a beautiful morning in the Western Cape of South Africa, in a small town along the Garden Route called “The Crags.”  For those who aren’t familiar with South Africa, The Crags is a stunningly beautiful town, and a popular tourist destination.   The region is surrounded by the Tskitskamma National Park and is home to about a dozen or so small farms, a backpacker’s camp called “Rocky Road,” many charming B n’ B’s,  holiday houses and the Darwin Primate Group (DPG).  The Darwin Primate Group is focused on rehabilitation of orphaned and injured baboons and vervet monkeys.  DPG was founded by a courageous woman named Karin Saks who has been fostering these primates since 1997.  Born in South Africa, Karin is a woman who has dedicated her life to the conservation of primates and has successfully rehabilitated and released 35 monkeys and is currently caring for 6 orphan baby baboons. 
 Karin was featured in the 2009 documentary, “Baboon Woman” and was the subject of the book, “Life with Darwin” written by Fransje Van Riel.   The baby primates Karin rehabilitates became orphans due to conflicts with humans; these conflicts are most often a result of a farmer suffering crop damage.   As with other animals that are labeled as “pests” or “nuisance wildlife,” baboons are often shot, snared or poisoned by farmers.   Because snares, poisons and steel leg hold traps do not discriminate, other wildlife and pets are often killed in the process.
My fifth trip to South Africa included delivering a donation check to the Darwin Primate Group from the US based nonprofit, Nikela. Nikela is an emerging wildlife organization that supports a select number of wildlife conservation projects in South Africa.   Knowing that access to US donors is a major hurdle for many conservation projects in South Africa, I have watched with interest and followed their progress and the projects they have supported over the last few years. 
 Karin Saks’ Darwin Primate Group is one of the first projects that Nikela qualified and took on as a supported project.   Earlier this year, I contacted Nikela, told them of my upcoming trip and asked if there was anything I could do to help while in South Africa.  I was told there was a small donation check for Karin that needed delivery.  I agreed to carry and present the check to Karin, plus have some photos taken of the event.   
Thrilled to be carrying out such a fun request, I decided to make things interesting by seeing if I could double the amount of the original donation from $1500 to $3000.  In about a month’s time, using the ubiquitous tools of social networking, combined with personal appeals to friends and family, Nikela and I achieved our goal of doubling the donation check I would be delivering to Karin.
I also decided to volunteer at DPG to learn more about the incredible work that Karin does.  In getting to know Karin I discovered a very centered and gentle powerhouse.   Baboons are the most persecuted species in South Africa and Karin is not popular with her neighbors because she cares for these injured and orphaned animals considered to be pests.   The laws are conflicting regarding their protection and it is perfectly acceptable to shoot baboons.   While the local police will say it is not.  I found in Karin, a woman that crossed the species barrier in her knowledge of primates and in her ability to communicate with them.  Prior to returning an orphaned baby back to the wild, Karin must first be accepted as a member of a wild baboon troop before she can introduce a youngster to the group.  Karin has been spent years observing and understanding the body language and behavior of baboons.   As a result of her work she has become an expert in how to solve conflicts non-lethally and coexist.  
In a former role, I served as the Director of Advocacy and Wildlife Solutions for WildCare in San Rafael, CA.  For three years my work was focused on solving human-wildlife conflicts, and educating the public about how to resolve those problems non-lethally, and for the long term. Witnessing Karin’s work I observed how similar the challenges are for wildlife around the world.   Karin cares for baby primates because their parents are often killed by farmers whose properties often border on wildlife areas.   
Along the Garden Route it is the Tskikamma National Park.  Animals are always in search of food, whether the source is natural or the result of human agriculture.  Food sources for wildlife can be either livestock or crops.  If food sources are left unprotected, conflicts will ensue.  When animals opportunistically take advantage of the easy meals provided by agriculture, they are often shot, poisoned or snared in an attempt to control the damage.  However, these methods are retaliatory and work only for the short term.  As soon as an animal is removed from a territory, whether by death or relocation, a space is opened up for another animal to fill, as long as the original source or attractant is still readily available.   If a mother is killed orphan babies are left behind to starve or be preyed on by other animals.
The common denominator of these wildlife conflicts globally is that humans are providing easy access to a food source when we don’t take adequate measures to protect our crops or livestock.  What varies is the species of wildlife that is killed.   In South Africa it is considered perfectly acceptable for a farmer to shoot baboons, vervet monkeys, jackal, and other species.  Here in the US, persecuted species include wolves, coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, mountain lions, and thousands of songbirds killed by agriculture every year.  Most of the killing in the US is either endorsed, or perpetrated, by our own government, for the benefit of private landowners.  This explosive three part story in the Sacramento Bee is the result of an investigation by journalist Tom Knudson of USDA Wildlife Services.   In South Africa, many farmers simply take matters into their own hands. In all these scenarios, the victims are the animals who know no borders and move easily between wild areas and cultivated areas.
Circling back to gunshots I heard earlier.  My month long visit to the Garden Route was drawing to a close, and as we walked along the dirt road that leads to Karin’s home and the primate rehab center she founded, I noticed a man about a hundred yards away waving something that could have been a stick or a golf club.  From a distance it was hard to tell. Seconds later, both Karin and I noticed a wild baboon easily hoping over the small, makeshift fence that surrounds this farmer’s property.   The debilitated fence was about 2 feet in height and we both immediately became concerned for the safety of this animal. 
Immediately after the shots were fired; we heard hysterical screams and cries from the baboons and watched as several of them fled over the fence in terror.  The only crime that these animals committed was foraging for food.  The food source that attracted the baboons was made easily available to them by humans and placed out in the open.  This farmer had planted a crop of tomatoes and avocadoes and took no measures to protect his crops from wildlife, despite the fact that his farm is surrounded by wilderness.  Rather than investing in adequate fencing, this farmer, like most deals with the problem by shooting the offending animals.
Being in such close proximity to gunfire was unsettling.  I was in a popular tourist area with a backpacker’s facility just down the road, and here we were out for a morning stroll, on a country road, with a couple of dogs.   Because of her work caring for baboons it is rumored that the local farmers “have meetings about Karin.”  I couldn’t help but wonder if the gunshots fired that morning as we passed were meant to send a message or not.   Regardless of the intent, Karin’s courage and commitment is unwavering as she works day to day caring for the orphans and victims of agriculture and human encroachment.  She has just been notified that the 17 hectare property that she has been leasing for the last 7 years is now up for sale.  An international effort is now underway to assist DPG to either purchase this land or another suitable location that has just become available in the area.