It’s interesting to note is that not a single primate (non-human, that is!) euthanased after biting a human in the USA and then rabies tested, has ever tested positive! To the best of our knowledge, there has never been a positive rabies test in a Vervet Monkey in South Africa, though we are aware, and publicise the fact, that as with any mammal (humans included), it is possible for a Vervet Monkey to become infected with the rabies virus if directly exposed to it.
Whilst this information is not directly pertinent to the unsupported public fear, fueled by uninformed vets and human doctors alike, that free-ranging Vervet Monkeys are “rabies carriers”, please share it with everyone you think would find the information of use in our ongoing efforts to bust the myth of Vervet Monkeys being “rabies carriers”.
Due to the understandable fear associated with the horror of rabies, Monkey Helpline is frequently contacted for information about Vervet Monkeys and “rabies”. Free-ranging Vervets commonly eat foods that might result in “foamy-type” saliva collecting on the lips around the mouth, which is then incorrectly believed to be a sign of “rabies”, and more so if the animal concerned shows “defensive aggression” or just chatters when approached by a human. Another common misconception is that the repetitive alarm calls, particularly by various categories of male Vervets, and sometimes also occurring during the dead of night, are an indication that the monkey is xz“injured and calling out in pain”, or is “rabid”. It cannot be stressed enough that everyone involved in working with Vervet Monkeys, at every level and in every capacity, must educate the public with regard to the “truth about Vervet Monkeys and rabies”!
An interesting point to keep in mind and use when appropriate is that during the numerous talks and public presentations given by Carol and I every year to many thousands of people, of all ages and in diverse areas, about monkeys and our work with them, we constantly have to respond to “statements” and questions about Vervets and rabies. However, not once have I ever heard anyone expressing concern about stray dogs and rabies, even whilst it is a reality that rabies is rife in free-roaming, unvaccinated dogs, especially in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), and that every person walking or cycling in or close to an urban area or a rural settlement is always at risk of being bitten by such a dog, and then contracting rabies.
Our thoughts on how it is that Vervets have avoided becoming rabies-infected, are that because they are so astute at recognising and responding to “body language”, Vervets see and sense the strange behavior of a rabid dog or other animal and avoid it as a precaution against being attacked by the dog/other animal. And it must be kept in mind that dogs are predators, and even a small dog can deliver a fatal bite to a full-grown monkey, hence monkeys instinctively avoid random contact with dogs a safety precaution. Obviously they have an understanding of the danger of physical injury and death, but have no concept of the “rabies danger”. It is also historically possible that there have been instances when a rabid dog/other animal did managed to attack, bite and infect a free-ranging Vervet Monkey, but the monkey has died from the bite injuries before actually contracting full-blown, transmissible rabies!
We all have the responsibility of emphasizing the importance of rabies vaccinations for domestic dogs and cats, or any other rabies-vulnerable pets and livestock, particularly in a rabies-declared area like KZN where it is compulsory to have your dogs vaccinated against rabies.
State funded rabies vaccinations, given independently of other vaccinations, whether by a private vet or a state vet, are FREE!
During the last quarter of every year Monkey Helpline is called out to rescue a number of adult female Vervet Monkeys who are heavily pregnant or are carrying a new baby, and who have been attacked and bitten by dogs or who have been struck by motor cars whilst crossing roads.
The following press release has been posted by Monkey Helpline in the hope that it will create greater awareness of the vulnerability of these monkeys and lead to greater efforts to reduce the incidents of dog attack or motor car strikes:
Heavily pregnant or carrying a newborn baby can be a huge impediment to mobility for female Vervet Monkeys, and the period between September and December each year is a particularly difficult one for them. This is the time during which the majority of pregnant female Vervets give birth!
Monkey Helpline spokesperson, Carol Booth, says that every year her organisation receives numerous rescue callouts concerning female Vervets who, being heavily pregnant or carrying their newborn baby, are struck by cars or attacked by dogs.
“Normally agile and alert these monkeys are able to avoid most dogs or motor cars, but because they are in an advanced stage of pregnancy or encumbered by their new baby, they find it more difficult to avoid dogs by getting into trees, onto walls or out of the garden”, says Booth. “Just a few seconds slower than usual, they become the victims of dog attack, usually with fatal consequences for themselves and their unborn or newly born baby. The same happens to these female monkeys trying to cross roads.”
Booth appealed to dog owners to be particularly alert to the presence of monkeys visiting their garden at this time of the year, and to confine their dogs during the short period of time the monkeys are around.
“Monkeys follow predetermined foraging routes and most people are aware of the possibility of monkeys passing through their property. Controlling your dogs in the presence of monkeys takes very little effort that ultimately translates into a huge benefit to the monkeys. Likewise, being alert to monkeys in the road or trying to cross the road and slowing down gives the pregnant female monkeys or those with newborn babies a bit more time to cross the road safely or to make the decision to wait until the car has passed.”
According to Booth this is also the time of year when the juvenile Vervets born during the previous baby season, around ten months to a year earlier, are also at risk of death or injury by dogs and motor cars.
“Following a mother whose attention is on her newborn baby or who, still heavily pregnant, is not so confident in crossing roads or gardens, the juvenile has to make its own decisions about when and where to run and when to wait. Even a moments haste or hesitation can be fatal and many juvenile Vervets are killed or seriously injured by motor cars or dogs during this period.”
And whilst Booth accepts that pregnant Vervets being attacked by dogs or hit by motor cars is, in most cases not the consequence of deliberate malice towards the monkeys, she accuses air gun-wielding monkey-haters of deliberately targeting slower moving pregnant or newborn baby-carrying female Vervet Monkeys.
“Incidents of females who are pregnant or with newborn baby being shot are not uncommon. Just this week we rescued a female Vervet Monkey with a dead foetus in her womb. A pellet wound to her abdomen left us in no doubt that she had been shot with an air gun. Grotesquely bloated by the gas that was caused by the decomposing mass in her abdomen, and suffering indescribable pain, she died just as we arrived to rescue her. In another incident, a ten-month-old Vervet juvenile rescued in Mount Edgecombe, also this past week, had an air-gun pellet embedded in the palm of her hand. So well healed was the wound that we are convinced that the pellet found in the little monkey’s hand had first travelled though her mother and had just enough velocity remaining to enter her hand but not pass through it. The baby must have been clinging to her mother at the time of the shooting, meaning that the shooter had deliberately targeted a mother monkey visibly carrying a baby!”
“Contrary to statements made by the anti-monkey brigade, there is in fact an alarming decrease in the population of urban Vervet Monkeys,” says Booth. “The claim that there is a population explosion of monkeys is totally false. Urban monkeys are, amongst other things, regular victims of car strikes, dog attack, high voltage electrocution, air gun and other shootings, razor wire injuries, deliberate poisoning, or being trapped or snared for ‘bush-meat’ or ‘muti’. No amount of “natural” predation ever impacted on Vervet populations as devastatingly as does deliberate and accidental human-related “predation”. At Monkey Helpline, our two full-time rescuers respond to around one thousand rescue call-outs every year. Of these, almost seventy-five percent of the monkeys are dead on arrival, die en-route to the vet, are euthanased or die within the first few days after veterinary treatment. Consider also that only in her fourth year can a female Vervet give birth, to a single baby (twins are rare) for the first time, and this after a seven month pregnancy. Research indicates that only one out or every four babies will reach adulthood. So, far from needing their numbers reduced, they urgently need every bit of help they can get to survive in this increasingly monkey unfriendly world.”
Since the recently reported attack on a human by two Chimpanzees at the JGI Chimp Eden Sanctuary in South Africa, Monkey Helpline has received a number of media enquiries related to the incident. Questions such as those below were asked:
- In your opinion, are chimps aggressive by nature?
- What can cause chimps to show aggression?
- The chimps in question were apparently tame. Is there such a thing as a tame chimp?
- There have been cases of chimps attacking humans. Are these cases common or isolated incidences?
- What are the contributing reasons why sanctuaries for chimps are having to be established?
- Tell us a bit about the ‘bush meat’ trade.
- Why do chimps defend their territory?
- Do chimps show certain behaviour and or body language that could indicate they want to attack?
Monkey Helpline joint-coordinators, Steve Smit and Carol Booth, whilst making no claims of being experts in Chimpanzee behaviour, provided the following general information:
No, Chimpanzees are not aggressive by nature. Aggressive behavior is particular to specific circumstances. Aggression is relative. No animal is generally aggressive except under circumstances where it is defending itself, its territory, its mate or its ‘family’ against a real or perceived threat.
In the case of this Chimpanzee attack, it is obvious that the person attacked was perceived by the Chimpanzees to be a direct threat to them after “invading” space/ territory.
Large, strong wild animals such as Chimpanzees can also be overly aggressive during the time that a female Chimpanzee in close proximity happens to be in oestrus.
Yes, Chimpanzees can be tame. However, wild animals have evolved to live in the wild in circumstances where their intra-and inter-species relationships with other animals influence their position and status within their own family group and species and also within the broader animal community that shares their habitat. Wild animals kept in captivity, either as pets or exhibits, lead deprived social and emotional lives and develop aberrant behavior.
This can be the direct cause of incidents such as the reported attack by the two Chimpanzees. Consider that humans who are physically and emotionally traumatized often require intensive psychiatric and psychological counselling if they are to again become emotionally and socially functional human beings.
Even though Chimp attacks on humans receive huge media attention and are very emotive, such attacks are relatively few and far between. In the few cases where humans have been attacked by wild Chimps there has been extreme provocation from the Chimpanzees point of view i.e. a ‘perceived’, threatening intrusion by the human into the Chimps space, such as when there is a baby Chimp or injured one in close proximity, and the attack is motivated by the need to defend and protect.
Humans attacking Chimpanzees in order to kill them for the bush meat trade or to steal a baby Chimp for sale into the pet slavery market could also illicit a defensive attack by the Chimpanzees on their attackers.
Sanctuaries are an essential component in the rescue and care of orphaned, displaced, rescued, sick or injured Chimpanzees. Without Sanctuaries such animals would be abandoned to their fate, many to death or a lifetime of cruel deprivation in captivity. Sanctuaries also highlight the extent of the bush meat trade with its affiliate pet trade. Primates in Africa are under extreme threat as the demand to supply the bush meat market increases in direct proportion to the destruction of natural habitat and the growth in human population and poverty.
The role of Sanctuaries is becoming increasingly important with the increasing assault by humans on the populations of African Primates.
Chimps do not defend their territory against human beings - they defend it against other Chimps. However, Chimpanzees, as do all territorial wild animals, ‘defend’ their ‘personal space’ against what they perceive to be an imminent threat, human or otherwise. In such cases the Chimpanzee will choose to either defend or flee. Specific circumstances will decide which choice the Chimpanzee makes. However the Chimp will almost always threaten before attack in an attempt to neutralize the threat without actually having to engage in a physical confrontation. To avoid a physical confrontation people should be alert to the signals that would always preempt an attack.
Yes, there would undoubtedly be signs that would indicate that the Chimpanzee is unhappy with the presence of human beings or a specific individual. Anyone who is active in the presence of Chimpanzees, be they in captivity, in a sanctuary or in the wild should be aware of the potential danger that exists and should be alert to the body language and vocalizations that would indicate the Chimpanzees emotional state.
It must always be remembered that Sanctuary Chimpanzees have been rescued after having experienced some level of negative interaction with human beings, which in all likelihood included watching at least some or even all of their family murdered, and probably carry serious emotional baggage that could lead to sudden and unpredictable behavior, even aggression, towards human beings or even other Chimpanzees within their enclosure.
Negative incidents involving Chimpanzees and violence against humans, can be avoided, if human violence against, and enslavement of, Chimpanzees were to cease. The killing of Chimpanzees for the bush meat trade, and the kidnapping of their babies to be sold on the illegal international wildlife market, as well as the procurement of Chimpanzees for use in research institutions and by the entertainment industry perpetuate the ideology of human superiority over other animals including the great apes, and are therefore equally responsible for the crisis faced by the remaining populations of wild ranging chimpanzees.
(Pics are of Chimpanzees at a “sanctuary” in the Western Cape, South Africa)
SA Time: 29 May 2012 08:18:54 PM
Monkey meat could lead to pandemic
May 27 2012 at 09:40am
By Evan Williams
The nation’s favoured dishes are gorilla, chimpanzee or monkey because of their succulent and tender flesh.
Deep in the rainforest of south-east Cameroon, the voices of the men rang through the trees. “Where are the white people?” they shouted. The men, who begin to surround us, are poachers, who make their money from the illegal slaughter of gorillas and chimpanzees. They disperse but make it known that they are not keen for their activities to be reported; the trade they ply could not only wipe out critically endangered species but, scientists are now warning, could also create the next pandemic of a deadly virus in humans.
Eighty percent of the meat eaten in Cameroon is killed in the wild and is known as “bushmeat”. The nation’s favoured dishes are gorilla, chimpanzee or monkey because of their succulent and tender flesh. According to one estimate, up to 3,000 gorillas are slaughtered in southern Cameroon every year to supply an illicit but pervasive commercial demand for ape meat .
“Everyone is eating it,” said one game warden. “If they have money they will buy gorilla or chimp to eat.”
Frankie, a poacher in the southern Dja Wildlife reserve who gave a fake name, said he is involved in the trade because he can earn good money from it, charging around £60 (about R800) per adult gorilla killed. “I have to make a living,” he said. “Women come from the market and order a gorilla or a chimp and I go and kill them.”
Cameroon’s south-eastern rainforests are also home to the Baka – traditional forest hunters who have the legal right to hunt wild animals, with the exception of great apes.
Felix Biango, a Baka elder, said the group used to hunt gorilla every few weeks to feed his village, Ayene, but has stopped since Cameroon outlawed the practice 10 years ago. However, he says that every week, three or four people come from the cities to ask the group to help them to hunt wild animals, such as gorillas and chimpanzees.
While the Baka no longer hunt primates for themselves, Mr Biango says that they still kill gorillas for the commercial trade and will eat the meat if they find the animals already dead.
Though Cameroonians have eaten primate meat for years, recent health scares have begun to raise fears about the safety of the meat. “In the village of Bakaklion our brothers found a dead gorilla in the forest,” Mr Biango said. “They took it back to the village and ate the meat. Almost immediately, everyone died – 25 men, women and children – the only person who didn’t was a woman who didn’t eat the meat.”
Three-quarters of all new human viruses are known to come from animals, and some scientists believe humans are particularly susceptible to those carried by apes. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is now widely believed to have originated in chimps. Apes are known to host other potentially deadly viruses, such as ebola, anthrax, yellow fever and other potential viruses yet to be discovered.
Babila Tafon, head vet at the primate sanctuary Ape Action Africa (AAA), in Mefou, just outside the capital Yaounde, believes the incident that Biango describes could have been caused by an outbreak of ebola, but cannot be sure because no tests were carried out.
AAA now cares for 22 gorillas and more than one hundred chimps – all orphans of the bushmeat trade.
Mr Tafon tests the blood of all apes arriving at the sanctuary. He says he has recently detected a new virus in the apes – simian foamy virus, which is closely related to HIV. “A recent survey confirmed this is now in humans, especially in some of those who are hunters and cutting up the apes in the south-east of the country,” he said.
Viruses are often transferred from ape to human through a bite, scratch or the blood of a dead ape getting into an open wound. There is a lower risk from eating cooked or smoked primates, but it is not completely safe.
Bushmeat is not only a concern for Cameroonians. Each year, an estimated 11,000 tons of bushmeat is illegally smuggled in to the UK, mainly from West Africa, and is known to include some ape meat.
The transfer of viruses from ape to man is a primary concern for the international virology research and referral base run by the Pasteur Centre in Yaounde. Each week, it screens more than 500 blood samples for all manner of viruses, and alerts major international medical research centres if it finds an unfamiliar strain.
Professor Dominique Baudon, the director of the Cameroon centre, says he is concerned that the bushmeat trade is a major gateway for animal viruses to enter humans worldwide, due to the export trade.
He says that the deeper poachers go in to the forest, and the more that primates are consumed, the more exposed people become to new unknown viruses and the more potential there is for the viruses to mutate into potentially aggressive forms. At the Ape Action Africa sanctuary, Rachel Hogan, who came to Cameroon from Birmingham 11 years ago, and her team focus on the last of Cameroon’s great apes.
It is not known exactly how many gorillas remain in the wild in Cameroon. Conservationists estimates there may be only a few thousand Western Lowland Gorillas left, which are being gradually forced in to smaller groups by hunting and the destruction of their habitat by logging. In the west of the country, there are only 250 Cross River Gorillas left.
Hunting does not just affect adult apes. One hunter said a baby gorilla had screamed so much for its dead mother, killed for her meat, that he eventually killed it to stop the noise.
Most of the gorillas and chimps Ms Hogan and her team look after are babies who have witnessed the murder of their parents. She says they are often suffering from terrible wounds and even trauma when they arrive at the sanctuary. “They grieve just like humans,” she says. “We have had them where they will just sit rocking, grinding their teeth and they don’t respond to anything. You have to be able to win back their trust.”
Ms Hogan says the apes can even die after the trauma. “They’ll stop eating, they won’t respond to anything… [They] decide whether they live or die. It’s like watching a clock wind down.”
The increasing number of rescued apes is putting pressure on the sanctuary. A group of eight gorillas in the wild, protected by one dominant male, needs 16 square kilometres to roam in to live comfortably.
The sanctuary says there is nowhere in the vast tropical rainforest of Cameroon that the apes can safely be returned to the wild. “If this continues there might not be any wild populations of gorillas left,” says Ms Hogan. – The Independent
Below is a reworked presentation I made at the University of Cape Town in October 2007. I believe it is important for everyone to know that vivisection (animal based research and product testing) is alive and well in South Africa and that wild caught Vervet Monkeys and Chacma Baboons are amongst the innocent victims of this officially sanctioned cruelty.
Today I am going to tell you something of who these two species of animals are, and what they are not. I have deliberately not referred to any scientific papers or other formal studies about non-human primates, because I am of the unwavering belief that every individual of every species of non-human primate is a sentient being who should be respected, appreciated and protected against harm wherever possible. Unfortunately this fact is mostly ignored in scientific studies where they are seen not as individuals – each with inherent value who exists in his /her own right and for his/her own reasons, and whose value is not reducible to whatever form of commodity-related value ( such as science tool, source of food or entertainment, etc) we humans conveniently attach to these fascinating animals – but rather they are seen as commodities, things, given numbers and not names!
As Michele (Michele Pickover, at the time one of the Trustees of Animal Rights Africa and long-standing anti-vivisection activist) has stated so accurately during her presentation, and I quote what you have already heard:
Other primates share with us many morally relevant capacities that were once thought unique to humans. There is very powerful evidence that animals throughout the order of mammals, at the least, are conscious of their pain, pleasures, appetites and emotions, as well as being conscious of the outside world. Monkeys, as well as apes and humans, ‘know what they know and remember’ and also ‘know when they forget’. They communicate meaning as well as emotion in their vocalisations; understand and use abstract symbols; mentally represent numbers; undertake problem-solving; constantly make decisions; comprehend cause and effect; form concepts and have desires; observe and interpret the gaze of other individuals, and practice deception. There are strong, affectionate bonds between individuals, particularly mothers and offspring, and maternal siblings, that may persist throughout life. They show emotions clearly similar to those we label happy, sad, angry, and depressed. They have a sense of self and a sense of humour. Like us, they can be aggressive and even brutal or compassionate and altruistic.
Like us, they are able to remember past events and anticipate and fear future experiences – such as pain. These attributes are morally significant because they show that other primates are harmed not only by physical pain, but also by mental and emotional distress – such as is caused by a barren environment, frustration, restraint or social isolation and the presence, or anticipation, of something fearful or painful.”
I must admit to having a fascination with non-human primates in general, as I do with all animals, wild and domestic. However, probably because non-human-primates behave in so many ways, and do so many things, that we humans can understand and identify with merely by watching them as they deal with all aspects of life that confront them each day, I also identify with the many threats they face each day to their safety and well-being, and I am compelled to do whatever I am capable of to actively defend and protect them against all the injustices perpetrated against them by humans. This is why, after having been involved with primate-related issues since 1984 when I was Chairperson of the Durban branch of what is now known as the Wildlife and Environment Society of Southern Africa (WESSA), I was in 1995 compelled to start the Monkey Helpline in KwaZulu-Natal. Often throughout one’s life you look back and ask, “why did I take so long to do something? Why did I not do that much sooner? Well, I have asked myself these questions a zillion times as I go about Monkey Helpline activities every day, because every day I see things being done to baboons and monkeys in South Africa that make my stomach turn, and not least of these is what happens to monkeys and baboons who are unfortunate enough to end up as subjects of some or other research.
As I speak, the provincial conservation authority in KZN, Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife (EKZNW), is preparing for the final public meeting that will lead to the adoption of a new management policy for all captive primates in the province – the conclusion of a process that has taken four years (now completed). And it is a process that resulted from pressure by individuals and organisations such as Monkey Helpline, concerned about the lowly status afforded primates in the province, which lowly status gave more rights to people who wanted to kill primates or use them for research or confine them in zoos than to people who wanted to protect and care for them. In fact, the existing provincial conservation Ordinance actually states that only research institutions and zoos may be permitted to keep indigenous primates. The Ordinance sets no animal welfare standards, no duty to care, relating to the capture, confinement and care of these highly intelligent and demanding animals – something which will be a very important component of the new management policy. In drafting this policy via a process of stakeholder meetings, one of the controversial aspects that needed to be dealt with was the use of Vervets and Chacmas, in fact all primates, in biomedical and other research, collectively called vivisection. What I found both fascinating and disturbing was that whilst most of those involved with this process knew of the use of primates in vivisection, hardly any of them had considered that this also affected the indigenous primates that were the subject of this draft legislation. The existence of ethics committees was mentioned as the so-called “acceptable” means of ensuring that all experiments were approved and done humanely, but it was interesting to note that even whilst this policy formulation process was underway, the BRC at UDW had applied for permits to obtain Chacma Baboons, and that during a suitability check by the local SPCA and EKZNW inspectors of the BRC, they not only found it unsuitable for keeping baboons, but actually confiscated and euthanised the Vervet Monkeys that were being housed there. It is also interesting to note that at the time that this took place, a member of the UDW ethics committee was also the veterinarian attached to the Durban SPCA. So much for ethics committees.
Do you know that no-one has the faintest idea how many Chacma Baboons or Vervet Monkeys we have in South Africa? What we do know is that habitat destruction and modification is having a hugely negative impact on these animals and as a result there is an ever increasing level of direct contact between them and the population of humans who have annexed the territories that these baboons and monkeys have inhabited for many generations. And with this increase in contact we have an increase in concerns for the wellbeing of both the baboons and monkeys and the people affected. One positive is that this situation forces more people to show a greater interest in these animals in an attempt to understand them and so lobby for greater protection for them, as both individuals and as species.
The sad thing is that few, if any, of the people who use baboons and monkeys as research tools bother to find out more about who these animals are and how they live. If they did they would discover what amazingly intelligent and complex beings they are, how well structured their societies are and very much like us they are in terms of their needs. They would realise what a terrible thing it is to trap wild primates and rip them away from their families in order to sell them into the world of vivisection. They would realise what a terrible thing it is confine them in isolation, in cold, sterile cages, deprive them of the social interactions with others of their kind that is such an important aspect of their mental and social wellbeing, and they would know what a terrible thing it is to subject these animals to the horrors of biomedical, warfare and other research.
Whilst discussing various aspects of the proposed new primate legislation for KZN during the many meetings that have taken place over the past four years, one thing that struck me was how little time the participating stakeholders had spent actually observing primates, in both free-ranging and captive situations, and I became convinced that it was this ignorance about these animals that made it so difficult for many of the stakeholders to understand what a management policy should really look like if it was to afford these animals a reasonable measure of protection against so much of the cruelty and exploitation to which they are subjected.
I say again, how many researchers actually know anything about the lives of the animals they see as mere research tools? Few, if any, I believe. If they did I think that it would lead them to more readily question the ethics of using these animals for research. But maybe I have displaced faith in the moral fortitude of vivisectors.
During the years that I have coordinated the activities of the Monkey Helpline, I have had an amazing insight into who Vevets and Chacmas are, how they live and what we should be doing to protect them against the injustice of abuse and exploitation for, amongst other things, vivisction.