Residents educated on ‘monkey business’

Monkey Helpline Director Steve Smit with Lula, a rescued orphan baby vervet monkey. | Supplied

Monkey Helpline Director Steve Smit with Lula, a rescued orphan baby vervet monkey. | Supplied

Published Apr 16, 2024


Durban North and uMhlanga residents gathered on Monday for a talk about monkeys at the St Michael’s Church Hall, hosted by the director of Monkey Helpline, Steve Smit.

Residents experience frequent “monkey invasions”.

Smit said: “Education is of primary importance when dealing with human/vervet conflict. I educate people to allay fears and misconceptions regarding monkeys that empower people towards peaceful co-existence with the troop of vervets that pass through their properties.”

Smit said that in the past decade, there has been massive development in uMhlanga and encroachment into the natural vegetation. This has created a high degree of human-monkey contact – and intolerance by humans.

Smit said this became an issue with the uMhlanga Ratepayers & Residents Association (URRA), which identified the need for education.

Monkey Helpline Director Steve Smit with Lula, a rescued orphan baby vervet monkey, cared for at Monkey Helpline. Monkey Helpline is a non-profit company that aims to educate people about monkeys and their behaviour. They also provide care, rescue and release for injured monkeys. | Supplied

Athlone resident Lorraine Tibshraeny said her experiences with monkeys were pleasant.

“I had a troop that would come through my yard most days. The teenagers had a ball swimming in my pool and chasing each other. Unfortunately with the development on the old DHS Old Boys Club, they cut all trees down. I am lucky if the troop comes through once a month and it saddens me. Some mommies used to come show us their babies every year and it was wonderful. It is so unfair what man is doing in taking their home and food source away.”

Broadway resident Tracy Sugden said: “I find these meetings one-sided, totally unhelpful and they do not resolve any issues. We are told monkeys were here before us, well so were monkeys’ natural predators. If we go with that logic then we must also bring back the elephants, leopards, lions, bucks etc that were here before us. We would not tolerate an elephant breaking down our fences and helping themselves to our fridges, why do that for monkeys?”

Sugden called them destructive – broken roof tiles, broken gutters, broken downpipes, dirty walls, broken crockery – and no longer afraid of humans.

“The troops come through four to five times a week and cause total havoc with the dogs and rubbish bins. They should feel the pressure of the environment and the population should adjust downward.”

Parkhill resident Russell Gibbens said, “Years ago, they used to cull the bull monkeys to keep the troop sizes under control but that has not been done of late.

“The proliferation in the number of monkeys has become problematic, exacerbated by people feeding them. Now we have to live with them breaking into our homes and creating havoc.”

Smit has voluntary experience working with the Natal Parks Board, Durban and Coastal SPCA, the Wildlife Society of Southern Africa, and the Centre for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (Crow). Smit founded the first Animal Rights Organisation in SA in 1985 and has been working with the rescue of vervet monkeys for close to 40 years.

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