‘They have killed my babies’

2010-09-18 00:00

CATO Ridge man Johan Olivier is in mourning after Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) “murdered” his vervet monkeys. “They have killed my babies. I have nothing left now.”

Olivier said the mother, father and baby monkeys were so close to him that they slept in his bed and were his constant companions.

Sobbing, the boiler maker said EKZNW visited his home this week, saying they would dart the monkeys to take them to the Centre for Rehabilitation for Wildlife (Crow) at Yellowwood Park, Durban, for an independent assessment. “That would have been stressful for them, so I took them myself on Tuesday.” Olivier said if he had known he was taking the monkeys to their deaths, he would never have taken them.

“I believed that what I was doing was in their best interests. They were so scared. I slept in my car near Crow and even spent a night in the cage with them there.”

Olivier wept openly as he recounted the chain of events which led to the deaths of his beloved pets. He said he was initially told that Billy (4), Doonsie (8) and their baby Crumb (nine months) would be assessed to see whether they could go back to the wild or to a sanctuary where he could see them. But on Thursday EKZNW changed their tune, he said, telling him the monkeys would either be sent to a sanctuary where he could never see them again, or they would be euthanased. He then called Weekend Witness, making an impassioned plea to EKZNW not to kill his “babies”.

Late on Thursday Olivier received an SMS from Brent Coverdale, EKZNW district conservation officer, saying merely that the monkeys were no longer at Crow. “I went to Crow and they told me the monkeys had been darted and taken away. I hoped that they had been taken to a sanctuary. But I was wrong.” The monkeys were euthanased on Thursday night.

Coverdale said Olivier housed the monkeys without the obligatory permits. “There was no environmental enrichment. Monkeys have complex behavioural patterns and need stimulation all day.” Crow’s verdict was that the adult vervets had no chance of rehabilitation as they were pining for Olivier. The juvenile could perhaps be rehabilitated. “Experts say that monkeys that have imprinted on humans don’t associate with other monkeys, preferring human contact, so euthanasia is the best option. We are not here to grant permits to people to keep vervets as pets. From a conservation perspective it’s not an option.” He gave no indication that the vervets would be euthanased.

Yesterday EKZNW spokesperson Jeff Gaisford said the younger monkey had been kept by Crow, but Crow director Sam Terblanche denied this, saying EKZNW had taken the youngest monkey. She faxed the admission form for the monkeys to Weekend Witness.

The form says Crow will “care for [the animals] to the best of our ability, … [they] will be released back into [their] environment or wherever [they will] be most safe”. In handwritten script it was recorded that they were “very tame — very loved by owners. Good condition”.

By the time of going to press Crumb’s fate was unknown.

Steve Smit of the Monkey Helpline told Weekend Witness he knew of two sanctuaries prepared to take the monkeys. He said while he does not condone the keeping of monkeys as pets, a more compassionate approach should have been used. “Euthanasing the monkeys was premature. They should have gone to a sanctuary for a month’s trial period at least to see how they would have adapted.” He said other pet monkeys had adapted to sanctuary life.

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