09 August 2012

Monkeys

Outside of the metropolitan areas, there are large quantities of baboons living in South Africa, and in certain areas, the smaller vervet monkey can also be found.  Most of the population considers them more of a pest, but for a North American, it's still pretty cool to see these wild primates crossing the road or foraging for food, or grooming each other.

Just an hour outside of Pretoria is a large 17 acre monkey sanctuary where a variety of primates live in a natural setting in the Magaliesburg mountains; it's a free-release sanctuary, so the monkeys don't have cages or pens; they just live in the large wilderness area, and bands of human visitors tour through the area on elevated walkways.


Most of the capuchins, lemurs, spider monkeys and others were abandoned pets.  While monkeys often look cute and/or cuddly, they can easily live to be 40 or 50 years old, but need the constant care and attention of a 2-year old human, and so they frequently are purchased by excited families who soon tire of the endless demands.

This center tries to rehabilitate the monkeys, some of whom are so totally comfortable with humans, that they have no problem jumping from one to the other, or even hitching a ride on your shoulder as you tour through the reserve.


As the previous tour group left the cage, a gentleman mentioned to me that my backpack would be tortured in the preserve, so luckily I stashed it in a locker.  Nevertheless, many members of our party were quite surprised when this little fellow was quickly and easily able to open all of their backpack zippers, snaps, buttons and ties and steal whatever looked edible or interesting.  He also loved to investigate pockets, hoping something tasty would be stashed within.


Soon, he was able to deftly grab a bottle of water, and spent the next 3 minutes banging it on the ground in an attempt to break it open.


After many frustrating attempts, he eventually started chewing on the cap, finally figuring out how to unscrew it, and water started pouring out...quickly he righted the bottle, tilted his head back, and started drinking the water, much like a slow human might do.

He scampered among us, stealing a roll of Life Savers, as well as someone's headache medication.  Luckily, he ate only a couple tablets before he decided they were not tasty and abandoned them.  There were some terribly stupid people in the group who tried to grab stolen things from the monkey, and they are very lucky they weren't bitten or scratched.  It was a bit disturbing to see how some of the people on the tour ignored the rules; hopefully the center will require everyone to stash their belongings before going on the tour to prevent the monkeys from being exposed to all sorts of things they shouldn't have.

The center also housed quite a few lemurs, found only in Madagascar, which are a primate, but more of a distant cousin than a descendant of monkeys, apes and humans.


This is the second preserve I have been able to visit that is dedicated to a specific species, and there are many others in the area, so hopefully I will get a chance to spend some extra time with some other amazing animals while I am here.