Recently stories about Vervets being shot at, maimed and killed on the Garden Route are showing up with an intense frequency. A wonderful lady contacted me at Monkeyland wanting to know what they can do to help the Vervets instead of just getting fed up and putting traps out for them or worse! Thus I contacted Mr Vernon Gibbs-Halls who is part of the Biodiversity and Coastal Management for the Eden District Municipality. Vernon wrote an email to assist the lady and this is what he and I recommend you all do/consider when it comes to co-existing along with Vervets.
“If you live in a community where the problem has gotten out of hand the best advice is to employ a monkey monitor as in the baboon monitors elsewhere which have proven very effective. If all the shops/homes can contribute to the salary of a monkey monitor, then you have someone dedicated to chasing them off.”
“I (Vernon Gibbs-Halls) have been inundated with calls especially from people who have illegally raised baby vervet monkeys and after 6-12 months they cannot cope with their wild ”pet” in their house. Babies of killed mothers are often taken as pets, which is not a sustainable solution as they generally start to bite when they grow up – this is part of a monkey’s language but is far magnified by the trauma of being controlled in a captive situation. Wild vervet monkeys do NOT bite humans, yet the vervet monkey has been tainted with a reputation as a biter because when kept and confined as a pet, and when humanized this way, they start to bite to protest that fact that their lives are being controlled. A bite usually means a simple “no”. It is impossible for a human to meet the social needs of a monkey; pets invariably end up with mental trauma and behavioural problems. And the people who have taken them in as pets unfortunately discover that their “love” for their pet has ensured the monkey a miserable life. I am extremely disappointed that other people along their route have maimed and injured these creatures! It is against the law and they can be criminally charged.”
Please share this information with everyone you hear are having Vervet problems:
Vervet monkeys are protected in terms of both national and provincial conservation legislation and also in terms of national animal protection legislation, and injuring or killing them is an offence! Vervet monkeys are NOT classified as “vermin”. Vervet monkeys are NOT “breeding out of control”, nor is there a “population explosion”. They do NOT attack people or pets! Vervets will threaten any person or other animal they regard as an immediate threat to their safety or that of a fellow troop member, but these threats are merely defensive aggression and are intended only to warn off a possible aggressor and are not carried through to actual attack. Vervets do not attack, but they will bite in self-defense if they are attacked or seriously provoked. Concerns that Vervets will bite children who encounter them in the garden or home are unfounded. Thousands of children experience close encounters with Vervets in KZN every day – none get bitten!
They do NOT transmit disease! Fears that Vervets are vectors (carriers) of rabies or other infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans are unfounded. There has never been a recorded case of a rabid Vervet. This can be confirmed by the State Vet. Dealing with Vervet-related “problems” If Vervets visiting your property are a problem to you, make every effort not to leave any food around that will encourage their presence and make them less cautious of humans. This applies both inside and outside your home. For example:
- If you feed the wild birds in your garden try to do so at random times so that there is no routine that the Vervets can get accustomed to, otherwise they will be waiting for you at your bird table each day.
- Vervets will enter homes to eat fruit and other food kept on counters, sideboards, tables, etc. Keep fruit and other food concealed when Vervets are about.
- If your house is left unattended, doors and windows should be kept closed or only slightly ajar so as to prevent Vervets from gaining access. Windows fitted with mesh or insect-proof screens will keep Vervets out but still allow air circulation.
- If you are having a children’s’ party or run a crèche or day-care centre and the children are given food, sweets or biscuits out of doors, ensure that adults are present to discourage Vervets from harassing the children for their eats. If there are Vervets in the vicinity it is advisable that, where practical, the children finish eating indoors before going outside. Edible leftovers should be cleared away as soon as possible so that Vervets are not attracted to the garden whilst the children are playing there. Vervets harassing children for their eats can be easily chased off by an adult with a squirt bottle or water pistol.
- Dog food left over after the dog has eaten, or which is left out all day, may attract Vervets.
How to deal with an “unwanted” Vervet presence
- Use your hosepipe to squirt them. You can reach them on your roof, in the trees and at a distance when they are on the ground. They hate being hosed and will run away. Squirt – don’t spray!
- A water pistol or squirt bottle aimed and squirted at the monkeys inside or close to your house is very effective.
- Vervets are easily shooed away simply by walking towards them and waving a small towel, dishcloth or other similar item. Don’t be intimidated if they stand their ground and threaten you. They will turn tail and flee as you get closer!
- Monkeys are naturally wary of snakes, so realistic rubber snakes placed around your home or garden can discourage them. Don’t leave a rubber snake in the same spot too long otherwise the Vervets will get used to its immobility and ignore it. Attach a length of thin nylon or string to the snake and tug it into “motion” when the Vervets are close to it.
- Dogs can be a deterrent to Vervets. However, if a dog does actually catch a Vervet this could result in very serious injury to the dog and Vervet. Dogs should be trained not to physically attack the Vervets.
- One or two strands of electric fencing are effective in keeping Vervets out of gardens, homes and crops. This is very easy to install.
- Insect-proof screens on windows and doors serve an additional function of keeping Vervets out of homes. Plastic mesh on windows and security doors/gates is also easily fitted and very effective.
- Vervets have very keen senses of taste and smell. They can be discouraged from eating fruit, flowers and vegetables by spraying or brushing these with a liquid containing quinine, chili, insect or pet repellant or any other distasteful but non-lethal substance that can be washed off. Dry curry, chili or tobacco powder also works well in flower/vegetable beds.
- Prevent foraging in refuse bins by securing the lids with a convenient but Vervet-proof clip or strap. Sprinkle Jeyes Fluid inside, on the outside or around refuse bins and bags. Refuse skips covered with shade cloth and treated with Jeyes Fluid will deter Vervets.
- Vervets are easily chased out of fruit or access trees by installing a burglar alarm siren in the tree and activating it when the Vervets are there. This can prevent Vervets using the tree to gain access to a roof, upper window or another tree, and can protect fruit and flowers.
- Use nylon bird or hail netting over and around vegetable, strawberry and other produce gardens to keep Vervets out.
- Tin cans containing a few stones and tied at intervals along a length of string which is laid through a garden and attached to a fixed point, then yanked hard when the monkeys are close, will chase monkeys out of a vegetable garden or flower bed as the cans leap noisily into the air.
- A piece of hose, with holes in it, swung around whilst advancing towards Vervets will frighten them away.
- Clear lubricating grease smeared onto overhead wires, along the tops of boundary walls and fences, on down-pipes, well-used branches and poles will discourage Vervets from using these to gain access to areas such as your roof, balcony, etc.
- Where Vervets easily use overhead telephone or other wires to gain access to roofs, fit a length of hard plastic piping around the wire at the point where the Vervets access it. As they put weight on the plastic pipe it rolls around the wire so making it impossible for them to climb across it.
NB. Pellet guns and catapults are a scourge – Vervets shot with pellets rarely die instantly. Instead the pellets cause injuries that result in a slow and agonizing death over days and weeks. Stones, steel or lead balls, marbles, etc., shot at monkeys with a catapult cause severe and life threatening injuries such as smashed eyes and broken bones. Shooting at monkeys with paintball guns can result in serious and even lethal injuries and it is illegal, unnecessary and very cruel – DON’T DO IT!!!
How to prevent possible injury
The only people ever likely to be bitten by a Vervet are those who provoke, tease or attempt to catch them. If you do not interfere with Vervets you will NOT get bitten.
In almost every case where a dog is bitten by a Vervet this has happened because the dog attacked the Vervet. Dogs should be trained not to attack any other animals.
- Don’t ever try to catch a Vervet or its baby. Don’t even try to touch a Vervet or pull its tail.
- A Vervet is not easily cornered, but if this does happen accidentally, move out of its way and allow it to escape. Just because there is a monkey in your house when you, or a child, walk in unexpectedly, does not mean that it is “cornered”.
- Don’t provoke tease, mimic or stare directly at a Vervet. Your behaviour could be considered a challenge – Monkeys threaten one another by means of aggressive body language and staring.
- If you feel threatened by a Vervet, do not turn your back on it or try to run away. Back away slowly whilst continuing to face it. At no stage, under any circumstances, start screaming. This will confuse and frighten the monkey/s and could result in a panicked, defensive response from them.
- Don’t allow children with food into an area where Vervets are present.
- Do not feed Vervets by hand or from doors or windows, etc. Consult Monkey Helpline for advice on feeding and feeding stations, because even if you don’t mind Vervets in your home or garden, they could be a problem to your neighbours, who might resort to cruel and criminal measures such as shooting or poisoning.
Keep in mind that if you apply the advice given here, you should always be in control when Vervets are around! Any person experiencing problems please contact Vernon Gibbs-Halls on 082 886 0699 or email him on firstname.lastname@example.org