May 11, 2008


Towards A Harmonious Co-existence.
As development continues to encroach onto wild habitats, people choosing to live in semi-natural environments – farms, smallholdings, seaside villages etc. are increasingly needing to find environmentally friendly ways of co-existing with wild animals and flora in order to preserve and rehabilitate the natural bio-diversity.
It’s common to assume that primate numbers are not threatened.
Age-old myths serve to justify the persecution of these animals by certain sectors of society (the farming and hunting communities for example), and sightings of baboons and monkeys are generally not considered rare.
As a result, it is widely assumed that primates are not potentially threatened. This is an important misconception.
In spite of many primates living in low predator areas, they get shot, poisoned, electrocuted, killed by dogs, caught in snares and trapped for research laboratories and muthi.
Over the years, troops have declined in numbers and troop structures are consistently damaged due to ongoing human developments.
Damage done to troop structures by human intervention is a factor less understood yet as - if not more - important to our primate societies - and their relationship to human habitats - than shrinking numbers. Primates are social animals; a group of individuals who work together as a cohesive system - a loss of any individual impacts on the group to some degree or another.
Reports of troops with 200-300 individuals (eg. Eugene Marais – “My Friends The Baboons” or Vincent Carruther’s book; The Magaliesberg) no longer exist; there is proof that both the baboon and monkey have suffered dwindling numbers. Old reference books state the vervet monkey was common, and could be found in most parts of South Africa. It is recorded, that they lived in large troops, of between a hundred and twenty to a hundred and fifty members strong. Older generations claim that, years ago, you could find vervets everywhere. Today they are no longer sighted anywhere near as often as back then.
The Vervet Monkey and Chacma Baboon fall under appendix two of CITES (Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species) as species considered to be at risk of extinction if populations are not monitored. Those who work hands-on with these two species generally accept that there is indeed evidence of serious damage done due to human intervention and that if this trend continues, these primates face eradication.

Wild vervets do NOT attack people or pets as is commonly thought. Any wild animal - or even human - will understandably defend themselves when attacked though.
Stories of vervets attacking people are usually about dysfunctional cases where the monkey was kept as a pet. Even in these cases vervets only bite - as a last resort to tell you "no" - when you have crossed their boundaries. If you respect their ways and needs, attack does not occur.
Vervets will threaten (bobbing, staring, loud chattering etc.) 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 intended merely to warn off a possible aggressor and are not carried through to actual attack.

Vervets may be forced to bite in self-defense if they are attacked.
Concerns that Vervets will bite children who encounter them in the garden or home are unfounded. The many children who encounter wild vervets every day do not get bitten. Parents can help by educating their children to exhibit passive body language (don't stare etc.) and not tease or feed wild vervets. This also offers the opportunity to teach children about co-existing in a harmonious way with wild animals (and the environment we all live in) with whom we have come to share a territory as human development increases.
If we use passive body language, leave them alone and don't carry or eat food in front of them, co-existence becomes a welcome experience, enabling us to watch these closely related fascinating primates from a safe distance.
Vervets do NOT transmit diseases!
Fears that Vervets are carriers of rabies or other infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans are unfounded. Like us, vervets are primates - if they carried rabies, we would be carriers too. Any mammal is able to contract rabies though.
- 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. Pointing a hosepipe with water at a wild primate is seen as confrontational to them and gives the message that they are not wanted on your territory/property.
- Try to make every attempt not to allow vervets inside your home to retrieve food for the first time they do this, they will think they can return to do it again. If a vervet does get inside, wait for them to leave and ensure that there is an escape route. Don't attempt to take food away from them, or tease or provoke them. Showing them that it is your territory and they are not welcome is an acceptable natural law for them so if a vervet does try to threaten (raising eyebrows/bobbing and staring), understand that this is merely intimidation and stand your ground. The next time they come round, try to shoo them away before they get close to the house so that they learn they cannot advance that far.
- A water pistol aimed and squirted at the monkeys - from a safe distance - inside or close to your house is very effective. Never corner a monkey which will cause it to panic and react. Vervets are easily shooed away simply by walking towards them and waving a small towel or other similar item.
- A piece of hose, with holes in it, swung around whilst advancing towards Vervets will frighten them away.

- Don’t be intimidated if they stand their ground and threaten you. They will turn and run as you get closer; we are much bigger than they are - an important factor as far as body language is concerned.
Don’t stare directly at a Vervet – they threaten one another by staring and your stare could be considered threatening.
- If you feel threatened by a Vervet, do not turn your back on him. Back away slowly whilst continuing to face him, while not staring him in the eye for longish periods of time.
- 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 realize it is not real. Attach a length of fishing gut to the snake and make it move when the Vervets are close by so that they are confused into thinking it may be real and a threat.
- Pointing a gun-like object at them will usually send them scurrying away - water gun pistols found in toy shops are an example to try.
- Some people have had much success by putting up day-glo orange coloured cardboard circles that are attached to fishing gut and allowed to move. If you paint two black holes to look like eyes it has even more effect.
- 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.
In rural areas where we share our territory with wild animals, it is best to train dogs not to chase any wildlife both for our sakes and the health of the environment. Responsible pet owners do this.
- Vervets fear men more than they do women, so wherever possible the Vervets should be chased away by men. When you do this, ensure children or others are not nearby.
- 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 is also easily fitted and very effective. This method allows air circulation.
- Although sight is the primary sense used by non-human primates, Vervets have a sensitive sense of taste and smell. They can be discouraged from eating fruit, flowers and vegetables by spraying or brushing these with a liquid containing quinine, chilli, insect or pet repellant or any other distasteful but non-lethal substance that can be washed off. Dry curry, chilli or tobacco powder also works well in flower beds.
- Prevent foraging in refuse bins by securing the lids with convenient but Vervet-proof clip or strap.
Sprinkle Jeyes Fluid inside, on the outside or around refuse bins and bags.
Refuse boxes covered with shade cloth and treated with Jeyes Fluid will deter Vervets.
- Install a burglar alarm siren in a tree and activate 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 attached to a fixed point and 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.
- Clear 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,
If Vervets visiting your property are a problem to you, make every effort not to leave any food around that will encourage them. This applies both inside and outside your home.
Some examples are:
- Dog or cat food left out all day, will be eaten by Vervets.
- 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 there waiting for you 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.
- In the case of children at school outdoors or children's parties where children are given cakes etc to eat, ensure that adults are present to discourage Vervets from harassing the children for their food.
It is advisable - for the children and the monkeys - that, where possible, 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.
The only people ever likely to be bitten by a Vervet are those who tease or attempt to catch them.
There is no reason for anyone to get bitten if you leave the vervets alone and ignore them.
In almost every case where a dog is bitten by a Vervet this has happened because the dog attacked the Vervet.
Dogs should - as far as is possible - be trained not to attack other animals. A relatively unthreatening looking dog who chases primates is not considered a real threat but gives the message the primates are not invited onto your territory. However, a very large dog who exhibits a serious desire to harm one of the troop will be regarded as a real threat. Baboons and monkeys know every dog (and other animal) in their territory as an individual and treat them accordingly.
- Don’t ever try to catch a Vervet or one of their babies. Don’t ever try to touch a wild Vervet.
- Never deliberately corner a Vervet in a situation where the monkey feels threatened. If this does happen accidentally, move out the vervet's way and allow the monkey to escape.
- Don’t allow children with food into an area where Vervets are present.
-Do not feed Vervets – especially by hand. Handing an apple (for example) to a baboon or monkey by hand, shows them you are giving over your power for in the troop those at the top of the hierarchy have first access to favourite foods.
Many of us enjoy the company of sharing our property with vervets - bear in mind that if you encourage them and have neighbors that don't like them, your neighbors could resort to lethal methods of deterring them. To deter vervets from a human habitat, all those in the neighborhood need to act to keep them away and by so doing, will ensure that they remain safe from the dangers that humans threaten them with.
Those who set up feeding stations as an alternative to the existing unnatural food around (exotic fruit trees etc) to deter vervets from dangerous human habitats, need to ensure that these feeding stations are not associated with humans.