Living with Monkeys

Many years ago when I first embarked on my African adventures I volunteered at a wildlife farm. I ended up working there and staying for sometime. I was responsible for a number of animals including a warthog, a duiker, jackal pups, a potbellied pig and 2 vervet monkeys.

So may people unfortunately keep various species of primates as pets. This often ends in disaster when the “cute” little babies grow up and develop teeth!! The two I looked after fortunately were on a road to rehabilitation and would finally end up in a troop and released back into the wild.

However, living with monkeys is not easy but so very worth it. Below are a few memories I have of these two loving, playful, mischievous animals.

The first meeting

The first day I arrived I had been pre warned that there was a monkey at the farm who can be a little unpredictable and likes to establish himself within the hierarchy of a group. So naturally I was a little nervous as I had never “met” a monkey before! His name was also “Monkey” a very original name for a monkey.
Our first meeting well OK! He jumped from one to another of the new volunteers sniffing us out. Vervet monkeys show their emotions and express themselves through little bites. So monkey proceeded to go through the group and bite us each on the neck! I was fortunately last as I was ready. Well I thought I was ready but the nip on my neck made me jump so much, my natural reaction was to grab what was biting me and push it as far away as possible. No one else had done this or reacted this way so I thought I had had it in the heirarchy stakes, I must be at the bottom now. However, a little violence seems to be how monkey established himself. So my random reaction had actually earned his respect. We became firm friends very quickly with a mutual understanding that if he didn’t bite my neck I wouldn’t go nuts!

Monkey and me!

Once a Thief Always a Thief

I learnt very quickly that monkey was a little bit of a thief. One of his favourite games was to steal something and take it up into the highest tree and chew/damage/destroy it. Now on a table full of food all up for grabs and my phone what do you think he would always steal?!! Anything of value or that you seemed interested in was monkeys target. He had an uncanny nak of pickpocketing you and then flying up a tree. I regularly had my phone and keys stolen chewed and pulled apart. A few thieving time stuck out in mind. I was going into town and one of the volunteers wanted something picking up. She made the big mistake of taking out a R200 note (Approximately £20) and holding it out at arms length for me. Within less than 2 seconds monkey came out of nowhere and grabbed the money climbed up the tree and ripped it into a thousand pieces! Not learning from that experience she then took another R200 note. Now as Monkey was preoccupied in a tree with the first note you would think that this one was safe! Oh no. We had acquired another little vervet monkey that week called “Pickle”. She was a very quiet little lady and at first was very good. However, baby monkeys look to their elders to learn. So unfortunately after watching the fate of the first R200 note Pickle jumped up grabbed the second note and ran up another tree next to Monkey and ripped it up just like her big brother!!! Expensive 30 seconds!!


My Little Family

I spent 24 hours a day with the monkeys. They were a hand full but very loving. Monkey and I would often play fight pretending to wrestle and bite each other. Pickle and I would groom each other for hours and after a long day would fall asleep together. Whenever I went anywhere Monkey would run up my back and sit on my shoulders and Pickle would jump and grab hold of my hand and sit there. My walks also included 3 dogs and a warthog who thought he was a dog, so never a dull moment was had!

Off for a walk with the “family”

Me trying to watch the jackal pups without being seen and monkey grooming my skin!

Swimming with Monkeys

After a very long day in the heat with the volunteers I decided to treat  myself to a bath!! The power had gone out earlier so bath by candle light it had to be!!! After a while I heard a few scratched at the door and the handle kept moving like someone was trying to get in. Now with everyone else on a trip but me I started to get a little nervous. This carried on for sometime. Finally the door came open! Now I had foiled my intruder by putting the latch lock on the door so the door could only open a few inches. This seemed to fool them for a short time and the door remained at that point and silence descended. Then after a few minuets there was a thud and a grey furry arm came through the gap flipped up the latch and through the door came two monkeys, 3 dogs and a warthog! To my surprise Monkey came running up to the bath and JUMPED IN!!! Well I had never seen this before. he jumped straight into the water and began swimming. He swam like, I can only describe it as a frog!
It was a large bath thank goodness, as after a few minutes of Monkey swimming around Pickle copied and jumped in too. For the rest of my “relaxing” bath I had two monkeys jumping in at one end swimming to the other, getting out running back to the end and repeating the whole thing again. Who says monkeys do not act just like human children?!!!!

Monkey Proofing the Kitchen

Vervet monkeys are extremely intelligent and figuer things out very fast. The terrible twosome figured out where we kept all the “yummiest” food bits and they learnt how to open every piece of plastic container boxes. we finally found ones with multiple clips that need to be pushed at the same time to open. When we realised they couldn’t get into these we went and bought all that that the hardware store had. We had to put a lock on the fridge as Monkey had taken a fancy to sitting on the top on the fridge pushing the seal of the door with his feet to open it and then stealing two eggs and proceeded to run away with them, one under each arm!! We also had to put a large stone on top of the bin to stop them raiding it!
We even had to put a plastic sheet over the freshly washed pots as they thought it was a game to come and poop on the washing up!!! They can test your patience but within an instant you can forget it when they jump on you and give you a little loving nibble and a cuddle.

This farm now does not exist which is very sad. However, if you would like to get some real hands on experience with vervet monkeys and assist in their rehabilitation visit our Vervet Monkey Rehabilitation and Wildlife Care Farm in South Africa.

The Vervet Monkey Rehabilitation and Wildlife Care Farm volunteer project with Blue Lizard Adventures was founded in 2003 and is located in the stunning Waterberg region of South Africa. The committed team at the farm work tirelessly to ensure each animal has the best opportunity for a second chance at living in the wild. It is a long and hard process and involves many different avenues of the conservation sector in South Africa. The end goal for this volunteer project in South Africa is to release the animals back into the wild.

The Vervet Monkey Rehabilitation and Wildlife Care Farm volunteer Project with Blue Lizard Adventures is a unique and special place, due to that they are very successful at releasing animals back into the wild in South Africa. This volunteer project in South Africa is also an incredible opportunity for volunteers to gain hands on experience of wildlife care and husbandry as well as experiencing South Africa’s amazing country and culture. The Vervet Monkey Rehabilitation and Wildlife Care Farm volunteer project with Blue Lizard Adventures is also a great opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts, biologists, conservationists or indeed anyone, to get involved in true wildlife conservation, rehabilitation and release.

Training will be given in all aspects of animal care for the Vervet Monkey Rehabilitation and Wildlife Care Farm volunteer Project. During your stay as a volunteer you will learn lots about vervet monkeys, as well as about the African bush in general.
On departure from the volunteer project, Blue Lizard Adventures volunteers will receive a certificate of practical experience in wildlife care, English language, eco-tourism and game ranch management.

Monkey and Me

Monkey and Pickle

Monkey and “Norway”
Pickle and me with my “love bite” on my forhead
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