Saturday, November 10, 2007

MONKEY BUSINESS - Do Not Feed The Animals


There have been a number of stories in our local papers recently about vervet monkeys in urban areas. People and pets have been attacked, gardens damaged and houses trashed. Sensitivities no longer allow the sort of response that in the past kept the monkeys away from the suburbs. People are at their wits end and no authority seems willing to act! I know that it is no consolation, but conflict between people and monkeys is a long standing world wide phenomenon. In India they are considered sacred by the Hindus and have reached plague proportions with no acceptable control mechanism likely. In East Africa, vervets, baboons and colobus monkeys regularly raid crops and homes and there is a constant battle between the higher and lower order primates. In these instances, this conflict is understandable as people have moved into the territories of these animals. In the case of urban areas in eastern South Africa, man has created huge new areas of suitable habitat for vervet monkeys and the monkeys response has been to increase and fill these new territories. In unmodified South Africa, vervet monkeys existed in much lower densities, confined to the warmer savannah and bushveld areas. With the planting of alien timber plantations and the spread of dense stands of volunteer alien plants such as wattle, the range of the vervets has expanded enormously into areas where they never normally existed, like the Drakensberg. Because Vervet monkeys rely largely on learned behaviour (as opposed to instinct), they are highly adaptable to their changing environment and they have learned that an easy and swift method of acquiring filling, nutritional and tasty food is to steal it from human homes within their range. When food sources get scarce, this may seem easier than the long hours needed to forage for indigenous vegetation in order to meet nutritional needs. What can frustrated urban dwellers do about the monkey problem. Firstly, all the affected people in the home range of a vervet troop need to agree on the problem and solutions. Its no good if some people are feeding the animals while others are trying to discourage them. There needs to be some form of education so that people understand the behaviour and sociology of vervets and what attracts them to certain gardens and areas. If you leave pet food in accessible areas or allow easy access into your house where food is exposed, you can expect trouble. If you have fruiting trees in your garden, expect to be visited. Big dogs will keep monkeys away but small and old dogs are likely to be attacked. Primates live in male dominated societies so male troop leaders have no fear of women. In a situation where women encounter monkeys, they should try to ignore them and never make eye contact which is seen as a challenge. Try not to show fear and never run away. Continue about your business and they will probably ignore you. In instances where troop leaders have learned that they can get away with that sort of aggressive behaviour, they may have to be destroyed. Rubber snakes and silhouettes of large birds of prey have limited scare value as the monkeys soon learn that they are not real. As monkeys depend on eye sight and not a sense of smell, concoctions that smell of predators or are disagreeable do not really work. Bottom line-make your house and garden unattractive to the monkeys and they will go somewhere else!
Extracted From:
Rhino Club
News Letter
November 2007

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