Monkey see, monkey eat: one of a troop of vervet monkeys helps itself from a basketful of apples deposited next to homes in Yellowwood Park. They had been feasting on scraps from uncollected refuse plastic bags when the regular feeder arrived with the fruit.
Monkey see, monkey eat: one of a troop of vervet monkeys helps itself from a basketful of apples deposited next to homes in Yellowwood Park. They had been feasting on scraps from uncollected refuse plastic bags when the regular feeder arrived with the fruit.

Curb monkeying around under lockdown

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Jun 27, 2020

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Durban - Anyone who’s seen monkeys munching on a banana or other food will agree they can look as cute as family pets.

People are thus easily tempted to start feeding them. But providing a regular buffet for wild animals can alter their behaviour and endanger humans and animals, experts say.

The animals may lose the fear of humans, learn to associate them with food and become a danger and a nuisance, especially when fed by hand or in a direct and predictable manner. This can also disturb their natural foraging patterns.

And the Covid-19 lockdown, which means there’s less throwaway food available for scavenging monkeys as people shop less frequently, coupled with erratic refuse removal in the eThekwini region, is adding to the problem.

“Ideally you shouldn’t feed monkeys,” said Steve Smit, founder of Monkey Helpline.

“But if you’re going to do it, do it properly. Monkeys are opportunistic feeders. If they see a bowl of fruit or bread, a jar full of parrot food, they’re going to grab it and eat it,” he said.

The Covid-19 lockdown has led to an increase in monkeys being attacked by people antagonistic to them or injured by people in road accidents, he said.

But the key factor during lockdown was that there were more people at home, which meant more contact with the animals as they go around foraging.

To keep monkeys from messing with your refuse bags, Smit suggests a simple solution: a few drops of Jeyes Fluid on the bags.

The organisation’s website has information about vervets and feeding, and advice (monkeyhelpline.co.za; 082 659 4711, 082 411 5444).

“To provide monkeys with food, place it at a ‘feeding station’ as far from your house as possible, but not where the concentrated presence of the monkeys becomes your neighbour’s problem.

“Place the food before you expect the monkeys to arrive, but not at the same time every day.

"This will ensure that the monkeys don't associate the food with you or come to expect the food to be there at any given time, and hang around waiting for it.

"No natural source of food is available every day, all day.

If they do arrive and find no food, they move on as part of their natural foraging process.”

To those who believe the monkey population is ballooning, the organisation said it was important to remember that female vervets never leave their territory.

The troops you see are descendants from hundreds of generations from the area they occupy.

And there’s no foundation to the fears that they are vectors of rabies, Covid-19 and such diseases.

The Independent on Saturday

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