Waging war on monkeys

2012-01-24 00:00

THERE is a growing trend among residents of Pietermaritzburg to scare away monkeys by shooting at them with catapults, often using paintballs as ammunition.

Brian Peek, owner of Point Blank at Cascades shopping centre, said many people, especially from Oak Park, Hilton, Muswell Hill and Montrose, had been shopping for slingshots to deter monkeys.

Steve Smit, founder of Monkey Helpline, told The Witness yesterday that monkeys often have babies with them at this time of year, leading residents to assume there is an overpopulation when, in fact, the number of monkeys is reducing worldwide.

“The number of monkeys that die is much greater than those who are born,” said Smit.

This was in spite of their having no natural predators.

He said people shot at monkeys with all sorts of ammunition, including stones and fruit.

Smit said people also used guns, including pellet guns.

More than 80% of monkeys rescued by Monkey Helpline have pellets lodged in their bodies, he added.

“Some have as many as 10 to 15 pellets in their bodies.”

Smit warned that shooting at monkeys with a pellet gun was illegal and punishable with a fine of up to R20 000 or a jail sentence.

He said people in urban areas shoot, poison, trap and imprison monkeys. The creatures were also exposed to unintentional deaths and injuries caused by vehicles, dogs, high voltage power lines, razor wire and more.

Monkeys were also being killed for “muthi”.

Spokesperson for Pietermaritzburg’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Maureen Vida said most monkeys rescued by her organisation were hit by cars.

“When we put some of them under an X-ray we find that they have pellets in their bodies,” she said.

Smit said all people need to chase away monkeys was water.

“Simply use a jet of water from your hose pipe if the monkeys are outside your house, or a water pistol or a squirt bottle. Do this every time they come around and they will avoid your house or garden.”

A Montrose resident said he had a big garden that monkeys fed on and that he dispersed them by shooting paintballs at them.

“The dogs drive me crazy barking. I think catapulting is a more humane way to get the monkeys to move along and doesn’t hurt that much,” he said.

The hose pipe tactic gave him concerns about his water bill, he said.

A woman from Lincoln Meade who recently bought a slingshot from street vendors, said monkeys were eating from her vegetable garden and that she was growing tired of them.

The SPCA’s Vida said there were no control measures by authorities to deal with the problem animals, but it was up to individuals to take precautions.

“We all should learn to live with monkeys and get educated. We’ll see that they are delightful creatures and we can live happily together,” she said.

Smit said people needed to be more tolerant.

He explained that striking a monkey on its head with a stone was equivalent to throwing a rock the size of a tennis ball at a human’s head.

“Shooting a monkey can cause it an injury. Monkeys can feel pain, but unlike us [human beings] they don’t have medication to relieve the pain,” he added.

Catapulting can cause horrendous injuries to monkeys, such as broken bones, smashed eyes, concussion, brain damage and even death, Smit added.

“It’s unacceptable.”

n Use a hose pipe to squirt and not spray at them. You can reach them on your roof, on the tree and at a distance when they are on the ground.

n Dogs can be a deterrent but should be trained not to physically attack them.

n When feeding wild birds in your garden, try to do so at random times so that there is no routine to which the monkeys can get accustomed.

n Keep fruit and other food concealed.

n Keep doors and windows closed.

n Windows fitted with mesh or insect-proof screens will keep monkeys out.

n Edible leftovers should be cleared away.

n Dog food leftovers may attract monkeys.

n Monkeys fear men more than they do women. If possible they should be chased away by men.

n One or two strands of electric fencing are effective in keeping monkeys out.

n Spray or brush plants with a liquid containing quinine, chilli, insect or pet repellent or any other distasteful, but non-lethal substance.

n Close your refuse bins.

n Use nylon bird or hail netting over and around vegetable and fruit gardens.

n Tin cans containing a few stones and tied at intervals along a length of string, which is laid through a garden and attached to a fixed point, will chase monkeys out of a vegetable garden or flower bed as the cans leap noisily into the air when the string is pulled.

Pietermaritzburg’s “problem” monkeys are vervet monkeys. They live in close-knit troops of five to 35 individuals, led and protected by the dominant male within a fixed territory. Female vervets never leave the territory from birth until death and pass information about their surrounds from one generation to the next. They eat fruit, flowers, seeds, leaves, bark, tree gum, new shoots and grasses.

Pietermaritzburg residents having problems with monkeys can call the Monkey Helpline at 082 411 5444 or 082 659 4711 24 hours a day.

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