Durban - A wandering monkey had to be rescued from a container ship in the Durban harbour at the weekend before the ship could set sail for Malaysia.
The “stowaway” vervet monkey had been running on the deck of Maersk Savannah under the watchful eye of the crew until Durban’s Monkey Helpline arrived and lured it into a cage with mealie cobs and apples.
Steve Smit and Carol Booth, of Monkey Helpline, rushed to the Bayhead container terminal on Saturday and climbed on board the ship while it was loading containers.
Smit said he had received a call on Friday that a monkey was walking about on a visiting ship but the crew had lost sight of it.
The helpline advised the crew to watch over the monkey to save them time searching the massive vessel for the primate on the loose.
Smit said the monkey could have climbed up a mooring rope or been stuck on top of a container as it was being lifted by cranes from the dock on to the ship.
“Monkeys make their way from the Bluff or Wentworth to the harbour. Wandering monkeys are attracted to the top of shipping containers because they normally collect water in the grooves,” he said.
“We walked to the stern of the ship where the monkey was last seen. I had placed the trap down and within seconds the monkey appeared from on top of a container. He coolly walked into the cage and watched me close it behind him.
“He was hungry and thirsty,” Smit said.
After trapping the monkey on the enormous ship, (334m long and 45m wide), the task of getting him down the steep stairs seemed impossible, so the ship’s crane was used to hoist the monkey and gently put him safely on land.
Although the seamen on board enjoyed the monkey’s presence and his antics, they would not be allowed to set sail as long as the “stowaway” passenger remained on board.
“In the end it all came together and the adventurous monkey was trapped by us and after being checked over by our vet), he will be released in a monkey-friendly place,” Booth said.
Smit said they had attended to at least a dozen call outs from ships in the harbour in the past few years.
It was difficult to get into the harbour because of regulations and safety procedures.
Previously Smit and Booth underwent a safety and regulation course in the harbour as well as an induction test. A safety clearance certificate allows them into the harbour quicker than normal, otherwise they would have to wait an hour to get past security.
Comments on Facebook reacting to the “stowaway” included:
Mark Balliett: “Maybe he had had enough of busy streets, dogs, and pellet guns and was heading for greener pastures!”
Lee-Ann Vermeulen: “Hahaha he has no idea what all the fuss us about. He’s chilling eating his mealie.”
Jeannie Pedersen: “A monkey with dreams of travelling over the vast ocean and having lots of adventures… too adorable.”
Sandy Burrell: “Maybe he was seeking a better life from daily abuse which is dished out to monkeys.”
Janet Lindup Longman: “Planning to become a refugee in Germany? At least he chose a seaworthy vessel.”