An unspeakable act of cruelty made its way onto social media in November, 2018 bringing attention to the killing of vervet monkeys (impaled on a steel fence) by a well known wildlife collector in Hartebeespoort Dam, North West Province, South Africa.
Considering that there are numerous non-lethal methods available to deter monkeys from human properties, and that shooting monkeys has failed again and again to stop raiding, one can only surmise as to why someone would resort to such psychologically unhealthy, cruel behavior.
A case of negligence of firearms and animal cruelty has been opened at the Brits SA police station.
A troop of vervet monkeys is comprised of a fragile, hierarchical, cohesive social system made up allies and families. When males reach sexual maturity, they leave their birth group to find a new troop to move into and are particularly vulnerable during this stage. When adult males are killed by residents sharing their home range, it leaves a vacuum for new males to move in. When a whole troop is killed, a vacuum is left for a new troop to move in.
Killing monkeys ensures the troop structure is damaged. These social primates that share between 91 and 92 % of the same DNA as us, also share the same emotional language hence killing members of the group is no different morally to killing a much loved member of a human family; it causes a ripple effect of devastation throughout the group and all related systems. It creates dysfunctional, primate societies that impact negatively on the environment we all rely on to survive.
Humans have encroached on the ancient foraging paths of wild primates, building roads, erecting pylons, and creating alien crops and gardens. As the most overpopulated and destructive primate species of all, how did we manage to convince ourselves that vervets (and other so called “problem animals”) are the “pests” and the problem?
Harmonious co-existence with monkeys (and baboons) is practiced by authentic environmentalists throughout South Africa illustrating that it is quite possible to share your home with wild animals without harming them. Given that we have the choice to use non-lethal methods to deter wild primates and that harmonious co-existence is feasible, one can only surmise what truly drives the person who kills.
THE COMMERCIAL SECTOR:
Vervet monkey infants – whose mothers have been shot – then taken to Rehabilitation centres mostly originate from the commercial sector – our agricultural or forestry areas. The tragedy behind this is that this is largely due to ONE misconception, that being that they destroy crops. In order for us to understand better why this species is in fact beneficial to orchards and is an important role player in the health of biodiversity, we need to look deeper into the problem.
WHY PROTECTING WILDLIFE IS GOOD FOR YOUR BUSINESS:
The main reason why we find monkeys in orchards is because they like a variety of food in much the same way we do. Orchards often offer the variety needed. The vervet monkey eats leaves, flowers, seeds, moulds, fruit, insects and eggs. Although they are viewed as causing great damage to farmer’s crops, this is exaggerated and probably began due to the farmer seeing the monkey as a wasteful eater. When monkeys eat, all too often we see them taking a bite then throwing a piece of fruit down. This can seem wasteful and is debilitating to the farmer whose crops are his livelihood, especially during times of financial stress.
One reason for monkeys eating this way is to ensure that those lower in the hierarchy have the choice to eat the leftovers of an individual that is higher ranking. This ensures the survival of the group who eat according to strict hierarchal law.
DETERMINING WHETHER THE MONKEYS ARE REALLY TO BLAME FOR DESTROYING CROPS:
Vervet monkeys tend not to eat the peels and skins of fruits. A tell tale sign that a vervet monkey has eaten your fruit is bite size pieces of skins, husks and pips of the fruit littering the ground below the tree.
Is the destroyed fruit ripe? If it is, then it could indeed be a vervet monkey. If not ripe, then a vervet monkey is probably not to blame. Monitor who is in fact eating the crop.
Are your crops being eaten during the night or day? Vervets normally do not feed at night and are most often spotted foraging for food during the day. If it is indeed nocturnal animals damaging your crops, research possible ways of protecting them – an alternative to shooting is always available. We can offer advice on protection methods.
PLEASE NOTE: Those who work towards harmonious co-existence between wildlife and humans have found that humans are quite capable of raiding crops and blaming it on wildlife.
Reducing the Damage caused: Set up a vervet feeding area on the edge of your fields where the monkeys can enjoy some old or infested ripened fruit, directing them away from any crops you would like to protect. Determine where the monkeys are sleeping at night and place the feeding area between their sleeping trees and your fields.
Use monkey chasers or monitors to keep the monkeys away.
Protect your property with non-lethal electric fencing. For more information on non-lethal deterrents, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
WHY THE VERVET MONKEY IS WRONGLY ACCUSED:
Most of the commercial crop plants are picked while still green and artificially ripened, this goes for mango, avocado and banana. Macadamia nuts are too hard for Vervet Monkeys to bite through.
Litchie are probably the only crop that could put claim to a certain amount of damage. However, considering the short picking period, a guard/monkey monitor could be employed to chase the monkeys away.
A note on this is that the damage can’t even be measured in a percentage so whether or not it is justifiable to call it damage is another question entirely.
When evidence of damage was reported in mangoes, it was found that an occasional fruit found in the orchards had a vervet bite mark. The mango was still green, giving rise to the accusation that they where testing for ripe fruit.
Further research revealed that this fruit had either sun damage or was stung by fruit fly causing a ripe spot, which pointed the likelihood of the monkey biting this ripe spot to remove a fruit fly.
Another consideration is that due to their size and vervets liking variety, they can only eat so much of a certain item and not for very long. Compare a monkey to yourself: how many mangoes, bananas or litchies could you eat in one go?
For how many days in a row could you do that?
A vervet monkey is probably not even a 10th of our size – its not physically possible for them to consume enough to even warrant calling it damage.
WHY THE VERVET MONKEY IS BENEFICIAL TO ORCHARDS:
Certain crops are wind pollinated and with the vervet jumping through the trees it causes pollen to be released and shaken into the air. They also help with selective pruning and picking, as they jump through the branches, the dead ones are broken off and any fruit that is set poorly also falls to the ground, causing the tree’s energy to be directed to the healthy ones.
Vervets also like scale and various insects so they keep these under control for the farmer.
Vervets play a vital role in seed dispersal and are a very intricate part of the cycle that a lot of indigenous trees need to follow to germinate. They also help a lot of the smaller animals come across fruit and berries as they knock them out of trees and should probably be looked at as the gardeners of our indigenous trees and plants.
SUMMARY ON DO’S AND DON’T’S:
Don’t feed monkeys by hand and don’t allow anyone in your neighborhood to do so. Try explaining the problems feeding vervets by hand can cause. A troop eat according to a strict hierarchy hence when you feed monkeys by hand you are giving the message that you are lower in the hierarchy which is why they will come to expect food from you over time. Once you have given away your power in the hierarchy, monkeys may become intimidating when you refuse food in the future.
Do not encourage them to come close to people, especially young children.
Keep windows and rubbish bins securely closed and fastened.
Minimise the sight of food and you solve your problem.
Condition monkeys not to come onto your property by using a taser (pictured below). Pointing a taser while pressing the shock button gives off a noise that frightens the monkeys away, giving the clear message that they are not welcome. As there is no chance of touching a monkey with this device, the taser is a perfect non-lethal method that helps you to manage unwelcome wildlife.
(Ask us for more info on how to co-exist with baboons and/or monkeys)
More on non-lethal methods to deter wild primates: