Monkey-ing around - harmless or menace?

Monkey-ing around - harmless or menace?

Love them or hate them, vervet monkeys are as much a part of Durban life as fishermen on the pier. But are they just loveable creatures or are they a menace? Terence Pillay finds out. 

vervet monkey
Image: Pixabay

LISTEN: Terence Pillay chats to Steven Smit who runs the Monkey Helpline: 

With urban development growing at such a rapid rate areas that were previously the exclusive preserve of the vervet monkey is now occupied by humans. This means that these animals, now displaced, have to seek both shelter and food. And what they do is return to what they consider “their territory” to forage for food.

Humans however often react negatively towards these animals that they believe steal food and damage their gardens and property. The reaction in some instances has been so strong that these monkeys have been poisoned, shot at and even killed.

I am not really an “animal person” given my OCD, but I watched a very distressing video on Facebook the other day, in which a vervet monkey, having been shot with a pellet gun, drags himself on the ground desperately seeking refuge and gnawing on his own leg in order to relieve the pain. I was distraught just watching the cruelty manifested in this act.

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. And you can go to jail.

Steven Smit runs the Monkey Helpline and says vervet monkeys are NOT classified as “vermin”. He is also emphatic that they are NOT “breeding out of control”, nor is there a “population explosion”.

Smit says they also 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-defence if they are attacked or seriously provoked.  Smit says that 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.

How do you feel about troops of vervet monkeys passing through your property? Do you accept them as a natural part of life, or do you consider them a menace?

You can email Terence Pillay a [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @terencepillay1 and engage with him there.

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